‘Religious Silence on Social Ills Unacceptable’

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Maxson S. Kpakio, Executive Director, Justice Forum Liberia

The leadership of the advocacy group, Justice Forum Liberia (JFL) consistent with the scriptural reference “To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice,” has frowned on religious leaders in the country for their quietude on societal ills, especially the issue of rape, sexual exploitations and abuse, and human rights abuses in general.

A statement quoting the JFL’s Executive Director, Maxson S. Kpakio, said that the continual silence of the religious leaders on issues that have the propensity to drag the country into serious embarrassment Internationally and lead to public disturbance is unacceptable.

JFL Executive Director stressed that as Liberia is seated on the shoulders of religious establishments with a unique religious connection, the nation must continue to be blessed by religious bodies by the virtue of religious leaders using their pulpit as well as public engagements to voice out the issue of rape, sexual harassment, corruption, nepotism, and those vices that are impacting “our society negatively.”

At the same time, Mr. Kpakio has called on the traditional leaders of Liberia to get involved by not only condemning the rape issue that is destroying the lives of teenage children and women in general, but to engage the authorities and advocate for the speedy trial and the prosecution of the perpetrators.

It can be recalled that the U.S. State Department 2019 Country Reports on Liberia’s Human Rights, catalog several cases of abuse and harsh practices.

The report listed several significant rights cases of abuse including “arbitrary killings by police; arbitrary detention by government officials; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; substantial restrictions on free expression and the press, including site blocking; official corruption; lack of accountability in cases of violence against women due to government inaction in some instances, including rape, domestic violence, and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); trafficking in persons; the existence or use of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults; and use of forced or compulsory child labor.”

The Report noted that impunity for individuals who committed human rights abuses, including atrocities during the civil wars that ended in 2003 remain a serious unaccounted problem.

“The government made intermittent but limited attempts to investigate and prosecute officials accused of current abuses, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government. Security forces and law enforcement officials undertook some training to increase respect for human rights,” the release stated.

The report recalled the June 24, 2019 killing of a teenager in Kingsville, Montserrado County when a firearm was discharged to disperse protestors. “There were several reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.” the greoup said. “On June 24, police officers fired live ammunition while attempting to disperse protesters who had gathered to demand investigation into the death of two children discovered on June 3 with body parts removed in what appeared to be a ritualistic killing.”

At the same time, the Gender Ministry has also reported a total of 803 sexual gender-based violence cases from a single quarter (January to March 2019). In that report, rape alone constituted 513 cases. According to the ministry, only 216 perpetrators were arrested among the hundreds of suspected perpetrators.

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