Fifteen traditional leaders, representing Liberia’s 15 sub-political counties yesterday unanimously rejected Proposition 24 that calls for a referendum to determine the country being designated as a Christian Nation.
Concluding the first of a two-day National Peace Building Retreat at the Paynesville City Hall in Monrovia, over two hundred and fifty delegates from across the country instead noted that the country should remain secular as it has been since its founding in 1847.
“If the founding fathers, the pioneers wanted to make Liberia a Christian state,” said Gbaporlu County’s Chief Varney Jallah, a Muslim, “they would have done it but for now it is too late.”
Chief Varney said as traditional leaders responsible for the Liberian people, “we are the real owners of the land and we say we don’t want Liberian to be labeled as a Christian nation.”
The two-day retreat is for the traditional leaders to dialogue among themselves to promote peace and unity in a cultural context with emphasis on patriotism, nationalism and respect for national symbols.
The topic was examined by Ambassador Juli Endee who said no society develops without a culture of respect, love for country and its leaders as well as for the country’s symbols, including the flag.
Ambassador Endee said patriotism should move Liberians to love each other, be emotionally energized about the country and what it stands for while nationalism should move Liberians to demonstrate respect for the country and its leaders and being honest to say the truth about what happens in the country.
“No matter whether we are Christian or Muslim,” Ambassador Endee said, “we must show respect for each other to promote peace in our country.”
She insisted that without a culture of respect for what Liberia stands for, “We cannot make significant improvement in our country.”
Earlier, Chief Zanzan Karwor, head of the National Traditional Council, regretted recent events in the country, citing the arrest, demonstration by the young people as well as the idea to Christianize Liberia which he sees as a bad move.
He warned Liberians that while there may be other Liberians who possess resident cards (known as Green Cards) to be able to return to the United States whenever there are troubles in Liberia, “The rest of us don’t have anywhere to go whenever there is trouble in the country.”
As a result, he said, “as traditional leaders we are concerned about these issues and are not prepared to just sit down and wait as our country is thrown into trouble.”
Chief Karwor, who was commended for his farsighted leadership by his colleagues, said traditional leaders are interested to engage the young people and to encourage them to weigh matters before taking to the streets to demonstrate against the government.
The Chairman of Nimba County Chiefs and Elders Council, Chief Peter G. Barloun added his voice to Chief Karwor calling for young people to complain to them as elders for redress to their concerns.
Grand Bassa District Superintendent Chief Nancy Greene, Lofa County’s Chief Forkpa Boakai and Bomi County’s Chief Gbelley Gray supported the position to encourage young people to lay complaint before taking to the streets to express their displeasures.
Chief Haji Sombai of Grand Cape Mount County made reference to the tragic event on April 14, 1979 and subsequent events of the civil war, warning that never again should Liberians allow themselves to overlook what is important in their lives and ruin what they have acquired.
They stated that Proposition 24 is not what Liberians want to develop the country.
Other speakers included Grand Kru County’s Chief Swen Wleh; Maryland County’s Chief Stephen T. Kuo and Sinoe County’s Chief Emmanuel Wesseh.
Contributing, Sheik Abubakar Kamara, of Lofa County, national chairman of the National Muslim Council, said traditional leaders are the parents of all Liberians.
Turning to Chief Karwor, Sheik Kamara said, “We are all your children but some of them are saying that although Islam was here one hundred years before Christianity came to Liberia and some of your children became Christians.
“But they are saying we must all be compelled to be called Christians and not Liberians.” He said Liberia must remain secular as it has always been. Yesterday’s program was filled with parables from the speakers and a cultural troupe provided the side attraction with songs in the various languages.
The two-day retreat ends today with several organizations and government officials invited to speak.