Most Rev. Archbishop Lewis Jerome Zeigler of the Catholic Archdiocese of Monrovia has disclosed that despite financial and logistical problems, the Justice and Peace Commission is not dormant, as feared by the public and members of the Catholic Church.
Archbishop Zeigler recalled that during the time of his predecessor, the late Archbishop Michael Kpakala Francis, the JPC was very vocal and active because of the situation in the country then. Though there are logistical and financial difficulties, Archbishop Zeigler maintained that the JPC is not dormant, but working inwardly.
Most Rev. Zeigler lamented the difficult challenges facing the Catholic Church and its various institutions such as schools and health centers. He said the JPC, which presently does not have a vehicle, was feeling restrained by a lack of financial support.
It may be recalled that in recent times, Archbishop Zeigler seems to be gradually— but surely— fitting his feet into the big shoes of his predecessor, the highly outspoken late Archbishop Francis, who was hailed by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in her 2006 inaugural address as the “Conscience of the Nation.”
On New Year’s Eve, Rev. Zeigler reminded Liberians that the fight against corruption must start from somewhere, mainly the family, and all other sectors of society where traces of corruption can be found.
He said Liberians need to admit that corruption has permeated (spread through) the entire country. “We are all corrupt and we need to admit that and try to work on ourselves individually, and then we will be able to look at the another person say he/she is corrupt.”
Sometime last year, Archbishop Zeigler said, underscoring the important role the media needs to play at “this critical junction of our peace sustainability and reconciliation, ”challenged Liberian radio station owners to control their talk shows, saying many of the conversations would not promote peace and reconciliation. “I beg you; please control your talk shows.”
He warned that sustaining the 10-year-old peace and forging ahead toward total reconciliation for all Liberians would— to a large extent— depend on the type and quality of news and programs the media houses try to disseminate.
The JPC was established by the Catholic Church in Liberia in 1991 under the sheperdship of late Archbishop Francis as a non-governmental organization (NGO). It was formed in response to a century-long history of widespread human rights abuses and injustices accentuated by the Liberian civil war, which began in December 24,1989.
The work of the JPC includes monitoring and reporting on human rights violations in Liberia; provision of legal aid and coordinates the Human Rights Fact-Finding Documentation and Reporting Program. It works concretely for reconciliation in Liberia through its Conflict Resolution and Peace-building program, which include training, workshops, and the promotion of dialogue and tolerance at the local level, by utilizing existing traditional mechanisms where possible.
The Former Minister of Public Works, Samuel Kofi Woods, and the former Chairperson of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), Madam Frances Johnson-Morris, were among the many prominent personalities that headed the JPC during the civil war and post-war periods.