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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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