Religious Leaders Pressed to Speak Out against Wrongs

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Eight of Liberia’s outstanding clergymen and women, including an Imam, who spoke out against societal vices during the 70s, 80s and 90s, were memorialized over the weekend at the Monrovia City Hall.

Those memorialized included United Methodist Church Bishop Stephen Trowen Nagbe, Rev. Mother Wilhelmina Dukuly of the Faith Healing Temple of Jesus Christ; the Most Rev. George Daniel Browne, Episcopal Church of Liberia; Rev. Dr. Roland Jigi Payne, Lutheran Church of Liberia and the Most Rev. Michael Kpakala Francis, Catholic Church of Liberia.

Others included Rev. Walter D. Richards, Liberia Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention; Rev. Dr. William Nah Dixon, Don Stewart Christ Pentecostal Church; and Sheik Kafumba Konneh, National Muslim Council of Liberia, described by many as an eloquent religious leader.

These religious icons who put their lives on the line as the voices of the voiceless and the consciences of the nation, were eulogized last Saturday at a well-attended event organized by the National Religious Advocates Memorial Program (NRAM). In attendance was Vice president Joseph N. Boakai.

The organizers said the religious advocates were chosen for the recognition because of their outstanding roles at great personal risk during the country’s 14 year civil crisis and also during the dictatorial regimes of the True Wig Party and People’s Redemption Council.

The renowned women’s rights advocate Mary Brownell and the Daily Observer’s founder and publisher, Mr. Kenneth Y. Best served as guest panellists at the memorial ceremony.

Mother Brownell provided a synopsis on religious advocacy in Liberia and the overall impact it has had on the Liberian society, while Mr. Best gave a comprehensive critique on religious advocacy in Liberia from the angle of the Liberian media and the political development of the nation.

Both panellists questioned the roles of the current religious leaders in the country and noted that their silence is quietly promoting the suffering and condoning the killing of many Liberian people.

I have observed that our religious leaders are very silent on the evils in our society and this is not good for Liberia, said Mother Brownell.

Mr. Best noted that the continuous silence of religious leaders on vices that are devastating the Liberian society is worrisome and has the propensity to throw the country backward.

“What is the role of our bishops, pastors, imams and other prelates? Are there any prophets among them?” Mr. Best asked rhetorically, adding “these clergymen are seen and heard, but we see no prophets.”

“I have often said that most of our bishops and pastors preach to the angels in Heaven, not to us depraved and spiritually hungry humans, who need to hear the word of God,” he said.

“How many of you,” Mr. Best asked, “have spoken of the widespread corruption in government, and pointed a finger at those involved? How many of you have spoken about the classic case of nepotism and corruption at the National Oil Company of Liberia, under the watch of the President’s son, Robert Sirleaf, for which the President has said she takes full responsibility?

“How many of you have spoken against the widespread corruption in the Legislature, including the imposing mansions built by former House Speaker Alex Tyler, only a few years ago a poor boy from Arthington? And against the huge sums of money the Ellen Administration, since it took office, has paid to both Houses of Legislature to ensure the passage of bills and the ratification of oil blocks and other concession agreements?”

Mr. Best asked the clerics, “When was the last time we heard any preaching against the pervasive injustices even in the judicial system—the courts of Liberia, which have even set free a Lebanese man who raped and trafficked Liberian women to Lebanon or against the courts that have consistently held up legitimate tax payments to government by powerful and influential business people?”

“When have we ever heard of our churches and mosques raising concerns about the foreign dominance of the Liberian economy—the absence of Liberians in the lucrative business sector, leaving Liberians impoverished and powerless, peons and serfs in their own country serving other people daily,
suffering constant abuse and even violence, such as the one that took place at the Mamba Point Hotel a few years ago? The Lebanese boy who brutalized a Liberian employee challenged him to ‘take me anywhere and nothing will come out of it. We have the Liberian government in our pockets! These were the roles of the people that we are honoring today.

“How many of you have dealt forthrightly with the mysterious disappearance and murder of Harry Greaves, former Managing Director of NOCAL, and Counselor—Michael Allison? Events that gripped the nation last year and almost caused civil unrest?

“What do the churches and mosques have to say about the continuing illiteracy among Liberians, after 169 years of national independence, or the continuing squalor in which our market women and their babies have to eke out a humiliating and painful existence?

“What do you have to say about our children, from the ages of five or six, selling day and night on the streets when they should be in school or at home? Of the able-bodied young men and women who should be in school, on the farm or learning a trade, but are yet languishing on the streets selling chicklet, towels and other trivialities?

He said “These gallant men and woman of God [the honorees] played well their parts in not only preaching the Word of God, but many of them engaged courageously in the prophetic ministry, a genuine, authentic ministry that is hard to find in Liberia these days.”

To the list of honorees, Mr. Best said he would add four other eminent Liberians who had prophetic gifts. These include Edward Wilmot Blyden, Rev. Toimu Reeves, Rev. Canon Burgess Carr and the legendary constitutional analyst, pamphleteer and school teacher, Albert Porte, though two of these were not religious leaders.

Mr. Best implored the country’s current religious leaders to advocate for Liberians amid injustices meted against the masses by the UP government. He urged them to rally around Liberians and speak vigorously on social, political and economic issues that are unfolding in the country.

Mr. Best further admonished prelates to keep in mind the crucial role they must play to guide their members in making the right decisions in the 2017 Presidential and legislative elections and continually remind them to register to vote and subsequently to show up at the polls.

He warned them to research the candidates and refrain from electing leaders with tainted characters who were involved in corruption or violence.

I urge all of you to guide your members, your followers, to take very seriously these elections, to be true and forthright to themselves and follow only their consciences and nothing else—not bags of rice, not money, not spurious promises in choosing their leaders in this election.

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