Church groups call for intervention in Liberia
6/13/2003 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.
By United Methodist News ServiceOfficials
with the World Council of Churches and Church World Service are calling
for international help in Liberia, where fighting between government
and rebel forces is raging and the nation's top leader has been indicted
for war crimes.
In a June 13 letter to U.N. Secretary-General
Kofi Annan, the top staff executive of the World Council of Churches
urged support for peace initiatives in Liberia.
The council is
concerned about reports of escalating fighting between government forces
and the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, wrote the
Rev. Konrad Raiser. "Thousands of people, including internally displaced
persons and refugees from neighboring countries, have once again been
uprooted and are on the move in search of security." Aid efforts have
been hampered, food, water and shelter are hard to find, and "looting
and plunder have added to the miseries" of the civilian population, he
Rebel groups are fighting government forces in different
parts of the country, already battered by more than a decade of war.
Meanwhile, an indictment against President Charles Taylor was unsealed
June 4, accusing him of war crimes against thousands of people during
the country's previous civil war, when he led a rebel faction. A
U.N.-backed Special Court in Sierra Leone handed down the indictment.
noted that the developments coincided with the June 4 opening of the
Liberian Peace Conference in Ghana, under the leadership of the Economic
Community of West African States and the U.N. International Contact
Group on Liberia. "We hope that the peace process, presently stalled,
will be revived with the active participation of all parties concerned,
so that a genuine search for a just and durable peace can begin by
putting into effect an immediate cease-fire and an end to hostilities,"
He asked that the United Nations encourage the
parties in the conflict to agree on the presence of peacekeepers. "Given
the gravity of this near-anarchy situation that has developed, it is
difficult to foresee a cease-fire holding out without the backing of a
credible peace-keeping force," he wrote.
A week earlier, Church
World Service, a humanitarian relief agency, urged the United States to
respond immediately to the crisis in Liberia. It also called for the
deployment of an African "stabilization force" in the country. Church
World Service is providing aid and attempting to rally U.S. churches and
government leaders to help Liberia.
The United Methodist Church is an active supporter of both the World Council of Churches and Church World Service.
Rev. John McCullough, executive director of Church World Service and a
United Methodist, expressed concern for the status of the peace talks,
now threatened by recent developments.
"We also fear that in the
chaos in Monrovia, where tens of thousands of Liberians have taken
refuge from the fighting that has engulfed their country, humanitarian
conditions will deteriorate and delivery of humanitarian aid will be
jeopardized, further deepening the misery of people who already have
suffered too long," he said.
Bishop John Innis, who leads the
United Methodist Church in Liberia, has provided food and blankets to
displaced people flooding into Monrovia, the nation's capital.
United Methodist Committee on Relief is responding to the crisis.
Donations to UMCOR can be designated for Liberia Emergency, Advance
#150300-7, and dropped in church offering plates or sent to UMCOR, 475
Riverside Drive, Room 330, New York, NY 10115. Credit-card donations can
be made by calling (800) 554-8583.
# # #
this report was provided by the United Methodist Committee on Relief,
Church World Service and the World Council of Churches.
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