The Liberia Council of Churches (LCC) on Thursday, November 29, launched the ‘Waking the Giant’ Initiative, which aims at mobilizing Christian churches globally to actively participate in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Held at the St. Stephen Episcopal Church in Sinkor, the occasion coincided with the 32nd General Assembly of LCC and was attended by government officials, development partners, the president of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), Bishop Arnold Temple, the secretary general of the National Council of Churches in the United States of America (NCCUSA), Reverend James Winkler, and the leaders and members of the LCC. The chief host was the rector of St. Stephen Episcopal, Rev. Canon A-Too Williams.
Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Elias Shoniyin, who launched the program on behalf of President George Weah, said that the government of Liberia highly acknowledges the enormous contributions of the churches in Liberia toward the development of the country.
Shoniyin said that the involvement of the churches is critical in the implementation of the SDGs, because the churches serve as the conscience of the society.
“The churches in Liberia have been very reliable and constant sources for direction and support since the founding of the country. The contributions of the churches are indeed enormous as manifested in education, health, and other sectors,” he said.
Minister Shoniyin said that the churches continue to play significant roles in ensuring that the country enjoys peace, adding that they help the government to make good decisions in the interest of the citizens.
“When often situations around us become hard, thus making decisions difficult for the government, the interventions of the churches are always helpful, because they remind government that the welfare of the citizens is paramount,” he added.
Shoniyin described as important the decision of Lutheran World Federation (LWF) to partner with the churches in Liberia to promote the SDGs, which he said is also in line with the government’s Pro-poor Agenda for Development and Prosperity.
The LCC President, Bishop Kortu Brown, expressed the body’s gratitude for being selected as one of the organizations to partner with the United Nations on the promotion of the SDGs.
He said that LCC will not only be committed to charity work, but intends to engage in advocacy.
“We as members of the Council of Churches in Liberia will remain committed to addressing issues such as the enhancement of reconciliation and justice, because the Gospel is holistic,” Bishop Brown said.
He stressed the need for coordination among the churches, government and partners toward the implementation of the SDGs.
“There is a need that we meet on a regular basis to review our works on the implementation of the SDGs. We have the mission to ensure that this project of ‘Waking the Giant’ becomes successful for the betterment of the country,” he said.
Bishop Arnold Christopher Temple of Sierra Leone, president of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), who spoke on the role of the church in promoting reconciliation and unity, said that the mission of the church is wholesome and, as such, it is not a mistake for the churches in Liberia to be recognized as partners in the works of the SDGs.
“God’s agenda for salvation clearly relates to the SDGs, because it addresses the betterment of humanity,” Bishop Temple said, noting that the involvement of the Liberian churches toward the SDGs is an indication of being renewed to serve humanity.
Bishop Temple emphasized that water and sanitation should be a primary concern of the churches when implementing the SDGs, because these areas, water and sanitation seriously affect the well-being of the African people.
“Water is important, because our Master stressed the need for water. Jesus has set water and food as a paradigm for salvation. Jesus told his disciples that he was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty and you give me water to drink.”
The Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Liberia, the Right Reverend Jensen Seyenkulo, who represented the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) at the program, explained that “Waking the Giant’ is a global initiative of the LWF that partners with the LCC on the SDGs through the LWF.
He said that the project is currently being piloted in four countries including Liberia.
“It is a great privilege to have this project in Liberia to foster the advancement of the lives of citizens. We are very grateful to the LWF for recognizing the country as part of the development goals,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rev. Winkler used the occasion to call on churches in Liberia to unite as they work with the government to reconcile the country.
Rev. Winkler, who delivered the keynote address, said that churches in Liberia were happy to partner with the government to reduce poverty and end hunger, according to the UN agenda.