Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai has called on Liberians, especially the largest religious segments of the population Christians and Muslims, to continue to exhibit religious tolerance that has kept the country at peace and united.
Vice President Boakai noted that in an era of turmoil, fanned by religious intolerance and senselessness, one cannot but be highly relieved that the leaders of the various religions in Liberia have managed to be level headed while steering their respective congregates safely away from acrimony and unwarranted bad blood.
VP Boakai made these comments when he served as the keynote speaker at the 20th anniversary celebration of the National Imam Council of Liberia (NICL), under the theme: “The Role of Imams in Contemporary Society,” at the Marvii Sonii Public School in Clara Town. The event coincided with a national workshop for all Imams.
Mr. Boakai said most parts of the world had become dangerous places to live because people take pride in dividing themselves on religious lines, but Liberia’s case is different as Christians and Muslims continue to live in peace and harmony.
“We urge that you stay the course as we embark upon our next decade of peaceful coexistence following the end of our fratricidal (killing of brother) civil conflict. Truly, Allah has great rewards in store for those who maintain peace and advance concord among His people. After all, His will is for us all to live in peace with each other.
“I challenge you that Liberia will be recognized as that country of religious tolerance,” VP Boakai said.
The state of tolerance we enjoy in Liberia, noted the Vice President, is a result of the preaching and teaching of the country’s religious leaders. This is unlike other countries where hateful, inflaming and violent messages are propagated to congregants against other religions.
“Much, if not all, of the fiery and distorted interpretations of the enlightenment sent down to humankind by the Creator find their origin in the teaching by those considered highly learned,” Ambasador Boakai said, adding, “Pastors, Imams and Rabbis and spiritual leaders of various religions find themselves at the crest of this class of erudite characters who wield that capacity to shape their followers’ actions and utterances.”
The sermon, known in Islam as Kutbah, that the Imams or Pastors, deliver usually has that large number of ears of mostly unsuspecting followers, Ambassador Boakai observed, noting that these preachers are looked on with great reverence and trust.
“It is therefore incumbent upon all persons in such positions of influence to be truly submerged in total submission to the will and guidance of the Almighty,” he admonished.
He said Imams and every other clergy in Liberia must strive to heighten their preaching of tolerance and harmony. “We must bear in mind that when things descend into chaos there is very little, if any, discrimination as to whom the adverse impact befalls. You will agree that such outcome can be very dangerous to a nation that is so interwoven in intermarriages, family relations and the myriads of other linkages.”
“You, the Imams, have given yourselves to serve mankind and guide them towards peaceful coexistence. You console the oppressed, encourage the depressed and give them hope that all is not lost. We in politics create the environment for peace and free engagement, while you give them assurance of life after death and hope in God’s good will for all on earth,” VP Boakai asserted.
He, however, recommended that the workshop devote considerable amount of attention to plot means by which the NICL is given greater strength in the grooming of minds that eschew hate, division, spite for others. Such grooming should put the mind of the flock in tandem with the popular saying, “Islam is a religion of peace,” and guide the youth and the flock against mob violence which is not a solution to problems.
“As a Deacon in my church, I value peace, unity and reason. I strive to uphold the virtues of tolerance, good neighborliness and love for country,” he said. He also made specific note of the atmosphere of peace and cordiality that continues to subsist in Liberia amid diversity in the various spheres of religious, ethnic, economic status, among others.
“Without any fear of self-glorification, Muslims as well as Christians, can take much pride in being a part of the whole that has sustained such a healthy climate in this country. You should hence remain conscious of the hard fact that without you as a viable subset of this body polity, the whole is left incomplete,” VP Boakai declared.