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Church leaders address violence in Liberia

 


Church leaders address violence in Liberia

Nov. 8, 2004 

NEW YORK (UMNS) – Interfaith leaders helped restore calm after a recent eruption of violence in Liberia, according to humanitarian sources.

After the late October burning of several churches, mosques and schools in the Redlight and Jacob Town areas outside Monrovia, Christian and Muslim religious leaders quickly met, then visited five area radio stations and in broadcasts called for calm and cessation to further violence and burnings. The leaders also met with United Nations

Mission in Liberia officials, who then increased security in the affected areas, according to Benjamin Dorme Lartey, head of the Liberian Council of Churches.

The source of the violence, initially reported as possible Muslim-Christian conflicts, has now been attributed to other disputes. "We nonetheless commend the Liberian Council of Churches and the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia for taking the lead in helping end this unrest and averting the development of future conflict between Muslims and Christians," said Moses Ole Sakuda, associate director of the Church World Service Mission Relationships and Witness Program.

"I just don’t know what triggered the recent fighting," said Liberian United Methodist Bishop John G. Innis, while in the United States for a Council of Bishops meeting Oct. 30-Nov. 5. "Conflict or war is like a disease . . . it comes, but it takes time for healing to take place, so we are of the opinion in Christ that the situation will one day come under control. There will be total peace in our country, but before peace comes, we have to go through some tough times."

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
United Methodist Bishop John G. Innis of Liberia says he doesn�t know what triggered recent fighting in his country.
Despite the new violence, the United Methodist Committee on Relief continues the demobilization of former soldiers without interruption. At camps near the city -- established in March with a grant from the United Nations Development Program -- the United Methodist humanitarian aid agency has supervised activities leading to the reintegration of some 23,000 combatants who fought in the 14-year civil war. While activity at one camp has concluded, UMCOR officials said a second camp would remain open until March 2005.

Demobilization is critical in stabilizing and reintegrating ex-combatants who, through Liberia’s years of turmoil, may have known little outside of life as members of a violent fighting force. The term "ex-combatant" refers to former soldiers as well as to cooks, porters, and others who accompanied them, often by force, during the civil crisis in Liberia.

Camp activities are geared to prepare residents for next steps in their return home. Following their stay at the camp, participants move on to job and skills training and other aspects of their reentry into community life. UMCOR also won a U.N. grant to offer vocational training to about 1,300 former soldiers.

Contributions to UMCOR’s work in Liberia should be designated for Advance #150300, Liberia Emergency. Donations can be dropped in church collection plates or mailed to UMCOR at 475 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10115. Donors making credit card donations may call toll free (800) 554-8580.

News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646)369-3759 · New York · E-mail: newsdesk@umcom.org

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