News Archives

Liberian churches appeal for help

6/3/2003 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.

By United Methodist News Service*

Liberia's churches are urging U.S. Christians to provide emergency assistance for the war-torn west African country, where hundreds of thousands of displaced people are living in camps.

Citing U.N. sources, the U.S. National Council of Churches reported that fighting has rendered 80 percent of the country inaccessible to relief agencies.

Liberia's situation "continues to be desperate," said Benjamin D. Lartey, top staff executive of the Liberian Council of Churches, in a May 23 letter to Church World Service and other partners.

"The security, health and humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating with many dying daily from starvation and diseases, particularly the women, children and elderly," said Lartey, a leader in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. "The Council of Churches is gravely concerned by the alarming and explosive situation in which we find ourselves."

He requested prayers for Liberia and its people, as well as for peace talks set for June 4. Relief, such as food, clothing and medicine, is needed, particularly with the rainy season under way, he said. He also urged members of the ecumenical community to appeal to their governments and organizations for attention to the Liberian situation.

The World Food Program has stopped distributing food to an estimated 200,000 displaced people in camps around Liberia because armed raiders were seizing the rations, according to the United Nations.

Church World Service, a global humanitarian agency related to the NCC, is trying to enlist U.S. churches and government leaders to act on behalf of Liberia's people. The United Methodist Church is a major partner of CWS and a member of the NCC.

"U.S. church support for Liberia has not been what we'd hoped in the past year or so," said Donna Derr, associate director of the CWS Emergency Response Program.

CWS is funding the participation of five Liberian church leaders in peace talks scheduled for June 4 in Ghana, and it has sent food, blankets and personal hygiene supplies for displaced people.

Concerned Christian Community, a CWS partner agency in Liberia, said the latest aid shipment helped nearly 3,600 pregnant and nursing mothers, children and elderly in six internally displaced persons camps near Liberia's capital city of Monrovia.

Eight years of civil war ended in 1997, with the election of President Charles Taylor, but fighting broke out again in 1999, this time between government forces and a rebel group called Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy. Two other armed groups have also emerged - the Movement for Democracy in Liberia and the Grebo Defense Force.

Rebel forces entering the city of Ganta in March looted the United Methodist Mission Station there, which includes a hospital and school.

Peter Kamei, a United Methodist and top staff executive of the YMCA of Liberia, warned that "a bloodbath like that in Rwanda or Burundi" could occur if nothing is done.

"Whether Americans accept it or not, they are looked to as Liberia's most precious ally," he said. Liberia was founded by freed U.S. slaves, fought alongside U.S. troops in both world wars and was an ally in the Cold War. "There is a need for America's voice to be heard."

The June 4 peace talks result in large part from the diplomacy of the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia, which comprises the Liberian Council of Churches and National Muslim Council of Liberia.

"It is important that Liberia's religious leaders be able to see the talks through," said the Rev. John L. McCullough, CWS executive director and a United Methodist. "The stakes are very high. Liberians' suffering must end. Indeed, the peace and well-being of the entire sub-region depends on a resolution of the conflict in Liberia."

The Rev. Kortu Brown, a Pentecostal who directs Concerned Christian Community, a Liberian faith-based humanitarian service organization, confirmed the distribution of the goods airlifted to Monrovia by CWS in April. CWS has a second, identical shipment in process, and it still needs $100,000 toward its goal of $150,000 in support for three more projects. Those include a joint Liberian Council of Churches/United Methodist Church nutritional, health care and educational project for 3,000 displaced families.

The funds also will support a Concerned Christian Community's program, assisting 750 women refugees and returnees who have been victims of rape and other abuse, and a YMCA leadership training program for displaced children and youth, who are the most vulnerable to sexual exploitation and military recruitment.

Kamei said the YMCA program is struggling to serve 2,000 children and youth with only about one-third of the funding requested for 600 participants. The program provides both emergency food aid and leadership training.

CWS acknowledged several denominations that supported an initial $150,000 Liberia appeal and subsequent emergency airlifts. Those were the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, United Church of Christ, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Church of the Brethren.

Contributions may be sent to Church World Service, Attn. Assistance for Liberia IDPs and Refugees, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515. Pledges and credit-card donations can be made by calling (800) 297-1516 or going to

The United Methodist Committee on Relief is providing humanitarian assistance to Liberia. Checks can be designated for "Liberia Emergency," Advance #150300-7, and placed in local church collection 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 adapted from material provided by the NCC Communications Department.

Back : News Archives 2003 Main

Contact Us

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.


*InfoServ ( about ) is a ministry of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add to your list of approved senders.