|United Methodist bishop named to truth commission
Bishop Arthur Kulah of Liberia addresses colleagues
on the United Methodist Council of Bishops. Kulah has been named to his
country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. A UMNS photo by Linda
By Linda Green*
May 15, 2007
A retired United Methodist bishop is part of a nine-member commission
seeking to uncover the truth about human rights abuses in Liberia,
including the 14-year civil war that ended in 2003.
With more than 300 nominations from across the West African nation,
former Liberian Bishop Arthur Kulah was named to the country’s Truth and
Reconciliation Commission. Kulah spoke about his involvement to
colleagues April 30 as the United Methodist Council of Bishops met near
Myrtle Beach, S.C.
"Our responsibility is to bring peace, unity, reconciliation and
security to Liberia," said Kulah, who was inducted into service on the
commission in 2006.
The commission is seeking to understand crimes and abuses that
occurred between 1979 and 2003. A peace agreement signed in 2003 ushered
in Liberia's first period of relative calm in more than 14 years. "We
want to find out the cause of war and what made us kill each other,"
Authorized in 2005 by Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and
the National Transitional Legislative Assembly, the commission seeks to
lay the foundation for a new nation.
The group "envisages a new Liberia where survivors, victims and
perpetrators will overcome their troubled past and live together as one
people," according to its purpose statement.
The work of reconciliation
The 14-year civil war was the result of Charles Taylor’s efforts to
overthrow then-President Samuel Doe for power and money. An estimated 20
percent of Taylor’s soldiers consisted of young boys and girls
recruited either by force or money. The former government also recruited
young children to fight on the front lines.
"We do not want the young people to take up arms again. We want the
church to lead in the role in bringing continued peace and
reconciliation to Liberia," Kulah said.
"We do not want the young people to take up
arms again. We want the church to lead in the role in bringing
continued peace and reconciliation to Liberia."
-Bishop Arthur Kulah
Liberia's leaders met in 2003 in neighboring Accra, Ghana, to work
out a peace agreement that was signed by the government and two rebel
groups. From that conversation, several commissions were proposed to
foster peace, unity and reconciliation, leading to the creation of the
Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The commission is charged with the responsibility of establishing an
independent and accurate record of rights violations and abuses. It will
set the basis for justice and reconciliation aimed at fostering
national repentance and striking the delicate balance between
accountability and forgiveness in order to move the nation from an era
of trauma and despair to one of hope and healing.
Kulah said the commission has the responsibility of investigating the
root causes of the Liberian conflict, amplifying historical truths and
The commission, he said, seeks to "provide (a) conducive atmosphere
where the victims of the war will be able to tell their stories, what
happened to them, who did it, and those who are responsible for what
happened to them will be invited to come forward to claim responsibility
for want they have done."
The commission is based in Monrovia and divided into several sections
and offices in eight zones. Kulah leads three subcommittees looking at
the role of traditional and religious leaders, unity and fundraising.
The commission will give its first report in 2008 and then could make
subsequent reports over the next nine months.
Money will be raised to pay for the commission’s work, and a fund for
reparations will be established to provide prostheses to those whose
limbs were cut off or damaged in the war. A fund also will assist in
restoring markets, schools and homes, and another fund will be
established to mark the graves of those killed. A national mourning
period will be announced to enable the nation to mourn the dead. The
government will apologize to the families of those killed, and people
also will be reburied.
"The United Methodist Church is very powerful and influential in
Liberia," Kulah said. "We have a great responsibility (to the
commission) because of what the church has done in the past."
During the April 29-May 4 Council of Bishops meeting, Kulah invited
colleagues to "help our church and be a part of the programs being
established in Liberia … because we do not want the young people to go
back into the bush."
Kulah is soliciting the denomination for a two-year commitment from
individuals and organizations with expertise in financial management,
communications and investigations. The commission seeks donations of
computers, video cameras and recorders, public address systems,
generators, office furnishings, mosquito nets, flashlights and cots or
June 3 is designated as TRC Sunday across Liberia. Kulah said all
church sermons that day will focus on peace, reconciliation and unity,
and offerings will benefit the work of the commission.
For more information about the commission and how United Methodists can provide assistance, e-mail Kulah at email@example.com.
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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