Liberian bishop welcomes news of U.S. aid package
11/11/2003 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.
NOTE: This report may be used as a sidebar to UMNS story #545. A photograph and video piece are available with this story.
By Tim Tanton*WASHINGTON
(UMNS) - The approval of a $440 million U.S. aid package for Liberia is
a gift for the people of that war-torn African country, a United
Methodist bishop says.
"I feel very, very happy about it," said
Bishop John Innis, who leads his denomination's Liberia Annual
(regional) Conference. "This is an indication that the U.S. means well
for peace in Liberia. â€¦ It is just a gift that has come to the people
Innis was in Washington for the Nov. 2-7 Council of
Bishops meeting. Mark Harrison, a staff executive with the
denomination's Board of Church and Society, told the bishops Nov. 5 that
the aid had been approved by Congress.
The money will be used
for humanitarian relief, reconstruction and peacekeeping, Harrison said.
The board lobbied for the aid to Liberia, which was included in an
$87.5 billion package requested by President Bush for U.S. military and
rebuilding efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He noted that Angola,
Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are also emerging
from periods of conflict. "We have got to work to get Congress to pay
attention to Africa and also to get reconstruction (funds) to those
countries as well."
Liberia has been wracked by a series of civil
wars in recent years. The nation's capital, Monrovia, has been at peace
since August. The peace deal among the warring factions required the
abdication of President Charles Taylor, a former warlord under
indictment for war crimes by a U.N.-sanctioned tribunal.
Innis said he is grateful to Congress, President Bush and the "entire citizenry of America" for helping Liberia.
U.S. government should continue to do whatever is possible to make sure
the peace holds, so the boys and girls can go to school, so the
people's lives can improve," Innis said. The people need food and
restored services, while homes, schools and hospitals must be rebuilt,
"I am very glad, too, that our church has done so much
in this direction," Innis continued. The United Methodist Church is
providing relief as well as support with reconciliation and healing.
far, Liberia has received $30,000 from the United Methodist Committee
on Relief, and the bishop said he has raised another $39,000 through
speaking engagements in the United States. "I'm sure there are more
When Liberian United Methodists gather for their
annual conference in February, peace and reconciliation will be a major
focus, the bishop said. "The church is a healing community, so we have
to heal the wounds."
The church has a role to play in building
unity in the country, he said. The people should overcome tribal
differences and stand together for the development of Liberia, he said.
"Disarm our hearts and minds and work together," he said, "because in
union, success is sure."
Liberia has 168,300 United Methodists,
spread across 600 churches. The annual conference also operates United
Methodist University in Monrovia, with about 1,000 students.
said the church is "picking up" in the wake of the war. "People are
worshipping God, and even during troubling times, our people never
forgot that God is going to give them peace."
He asks that United
Methodists continue funding support for the church. Many pastors lost
homes during the war, and schools and churches were damaged, he said.
Methodists can support Liberia's recovery by making contributions to
UMCOR's Liberia Emergency, Advance #150300. Checks can be dropped in
church offerings or sent to UMCOR, 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New
York, NY 10115. Credit-card donors can go online to
http://gbgm-umc.org/umcor/emergency/Liberia.stm or call (800) 554-8583.
Said Innis: "I appeal to all to help us rebuild and give hope to the â€¦ people of Liberia."
# # #
*Tanton is United Methodist News Service's managing editor.
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