For failure to speak against societal ills
By Joaquin M. Sendolo
Without the usual spiritual message to inspire the Christians to uphold their faith firmly, Baptist clergyman William Vambram would not mince his words while expressing the shortcomings of the church in speaking against injustice and oppression. In his sermon, delivered on Sunday, September 13, 2020, Rev. Vambram criticized the body of Christ (the church) for sitting supinely and watching injustices such as rape overwhelm Liberian society without speaking out for the oppressed.
Reverend Vambram extended an apology to the people of Liberia who have been and continue to be oppressed and affected by rape, and shifted heavy blame on the church for ignoring the plights of the poor and underprivileged people, who the church should be speaking for.
In his sermon, taken from the biblical text of Micah chapter 6, where God spoke to His people to walk justly, in mercy and humility, the clergyman, in very strong and assertive terms emphasized that the church in Liberia nowadays is far from obeying this command enshrined in the Bible, stressing that “God is the God of Justice” and anything contrary to justice is not acceptable to Him.
“Just in recent days, people were protesting against rape; we have heard and seen police beating and in some instances killing people here unnecessarily and, amid all these injustices and oppression, the church has refused to speak against the ills. The church is the voice of the voiceless and speaking against ills should not be left with civil society organizations alone,” Rev. Vambram stressed.
He acknowledged that a few churches have not been so quiet on oppression and injustices in the country. However, “two or three churches coming out to speak against societal ills does not represent the ‘Body of Christ’ well, as the church is the largest social institution in the country,” he said.
According to the 2008 Housing and Population Census of Liberia, 85.5% of Liberians practice Christianity with 12% being devotees of Islam.
In spite of the large platform the Christian clergy have to speak out about social ills affecting the society, many church leaders have not been very vocal, especially in the current administration where corruption, political violence, police brutality and other acts of incivility have been more or less the order of the day.
Except for deceased Catholic Archbishop Michael Kpakala Francis, who is remembered for speaking against bad governance even during the dictatorial regime of former President Charles Taylor, not many Liberian clergymen are seen and heard standing up for justice or speaking against corruption and other ills. In fact, in the rape menace that Liberians recently protested against, pastors have been caught in the web. It may be recalled that on June 17 this year, Pastor James Kollie was arrested in Logan Town for allegedly raping a 13-year old girl; a demeaning allegation to be attributed to a any born-again Christian, let alone one wielding a leadership position over a congragation.
Ordinary Liberians affected by the 14-year civil conflict have always cried out for justice to allow them find healing from their agonies, but some clergymen have rubbished the idea of establishing a war crimes court to try perpetrators. It may be recalled that during Liberia’s 170th Independence Anniversary in 2017, Episcopal clergyman, Dr. Herman Brown in his oration speech on the topic, “Sustaining the peace by all Liberians,” said the call for a war crimes court was an act of retaliation and not a Godly way of sustaining peace in the country.
Rev. Vambram, in his sermon, stressed that justice is necessary for the people of God to practice, cautioning that injustice was the cause of the war in Liberia and no one should believe that Liberia’s fragile peace can be sustained in the presence of injustice.
In recent days some clergymen endorsed, baptized and anointed Montserrado County senatorial aspirant, Thomas Fallah, a ranking member of the ruling party, Coalition for Democratic Change. The act drew strong criticism from Liberian Gospel musician, Kanvee Gaines Adams against Bishop Amos Bah who performed the anointment. In her tirade, she recalled that when she decided to run for representative office in Montserrado County District 6, it was the same Bishop Amos Bah who advised her against running for elected office in the House of Representatives, because, as Adams quoted Bishop Bah, “it is a devilish place.”
In Rev. Vambram’s view, he said it is not the right thing for a bishop or spiritual leader to do because it will confuse a lot of people about who God’s choice is.
According to him, in the days the Israelites decided to move away from Theocracy to Monarchy, God directly spoke with his servants including Samuel to go and anoint a person He would name, and that is how Saul, David and the rest of the Kings of Israel came. On the contrary, such cannot be real in a democratic election such as in Liberia, where a lot of candidates are contesting and going to different churches to seek prayer and anointings, with the claims that they are the chosen of God.
The Baptist clergyman noted in his stern assertions that the church should begin to speak now and not to believe any magic can be performed to make Liberia peaceful if injustices and oppression remain the order of the day.
With the coming of the mid-term election, Rev. Vambram said the church and Liberians have to be mindful to speak against the wrongs, or keep silent to see Liberia regressing to its dark past.