A priest serving with the St. Stephen Episcopal Church, Monrovia, yesterday called President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Foreign Minister Augustine Ngafuan “good shepherds.”
“They and other government officials,” the Reverend Naime K. Garley declared in her sermon at St. Stephen, “are good shepherds because they brought back home our girls who had for years been lost in Lebanon.”
Taking her text from the day’s Gospel lesson found in John 10:11-16, Rev. Garley recalled that Jesus had described a good shepherd as one who cares for his sheep and was prepared even to lay down his life for them.
“I must commend the government of Liberia, especially our President and Foreign Minister, for bringing back our girls from Lebanon.
The other government officials she had in mind were Labor Minister Neto Z. Lighe, Sr. and Immigration Commisssioner Lemuel Reeves, who led the delegation to Beirut and accompanied most of the Liberian girls back home.
The girls had allegedly been taken to Lebanon by unscrupulous Lebanese businessmen under the pretext of finding them good paying jobs. But once there, they were inhumanely treated, some as sex slaves and their passports confiscated. The Lebanese businessmen also seized whatever wages were due them. But due to persistent media reports about their plight, the GOL sent the Labor Minister and Immigration Commissioner to Lebanon to release the girls, most of whom have now returned. Four more of them returned over the weekend.
Rev. Garley also commended the Liberian government, especially Foreign Minister Ngafuan, and by implication Liberian Ambassador to Pretoria, Lois Brutus, for making sure that all Liberians in South Africa are safe and accounted for.
Millions of Africans in South Africa have in recent weeks been subjected to xenophobic attacks by native South Africans who are demanding that other Africans leave the country because they were taking their jobs and their women.
President Jacob Zuma belatedly reacted to the violence by calling for an investigation and a halt to the attacks while the Zulu king, who had earlier called on other Africans to leave the country, said he had been “quoted out of context.”
But Rev. Garley said she was pleased to learn that Foreign Minister Ngafuan had been doing everything to ensure that all Liberians, especially those in Durban, the epicenter of the xenophobic attacks, were all accounted for and safe.
Preacher Garley frowned upon Liberians who mistreat people working for them and those who assume a cruel attitude towards other people. “Remember that a good shepherd always has empathy (compassion, sympathy).
The characteristics of a good shepherd, she told her congregation, are first, “you must lay down your life for your sheep, as Christ did on the cross; second, discipline your sheep; third, prevent them from fighting one another; fourth, show your sheep a sense of belonging; fifth, be with your sheep in good and bad times; and sixth, know your sheep by name, feed them and find the lost ones.”