The ZOA, an international non-governmental organization in Liberia, in collaboration with the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) over the weekend launched a three-year peace-building and reconciliation project through community dialogues.
The projects intend to reconcile Liberians by addressing impunity and restoring civil trust among community residents.
The exercise is expected to benefit 12,000 people in Grand Cape Mount, Montserrado, Margibi, Lofa and Nimba counties, and held under the theme, “Strengthening Social Cohesion and Civil Trust.” The project is funded by the Embassy of Sweden Development Cooperation with US$1.4 million.
Peace Ambassador Reverend William R. Tolbert, III, who launched the project on behalf of the Minister of Internal Affairs, Varney Sirleaf, lauded ZOA, the YMCA and partners for such an initiative.
Tolbert said the success and effectiveness of the projects will be based on the willingness of Liberians to sit and dialogue among themselves about difficulties they encountered during the 14-year civil conflict.
Reverend Tolbert noted that the initiatives by ZOA and YMCA are geared towards complementing government’s efforts on peace-building and reconciliation because, having gone through 14 years of civil conflicts, the issue of trust among Liberians remains paramount in the process.
“So this initiative is all about helping people to come together to overcome some of their life challenging problems. The approach helps people in a group format, whereby group members are given an opportunity to help their companions to overcome some of the bitterness associated with the civil war as well as finding solution to the impasse.
“It is time to be together, time to encourage human security, increase freedom from violence, with women participation in political process…all these are things that prompted ZOA and partners to launch the project,” Tolbert said.
Tolbert said that he believes that the need to rebuild trust to strengthen social cohesion at the level of the community between individuals and householders is essential to cement the projects.
Tolbert said over the years, other entities have been preaching similar reconciliation messages, adding that “this is another opportunity to also help reconcile among families, thus improving their lives.”
Elisabeth Harleman, head of the Sweden Development Cooperation, congratulated ZOA and YMCA for the projects. She said the embassy started working on said initiatives since last year to support community-based therapy as part of the embassy’s work on human security in Liberia.
Working with human security, Ms. Harleman said, means having a broader prospective to know what security is all about, because security is not only about freedom, violence and conflicts, but about connecting peace and development as well as human rights.
She said one of the priorities of the Sweden Development Cooperation in Liberia is to strengthen such initiatives for reconciliation at national and local levels, noting that the conflict of peace-building starts with trust, “and one must build that trust.”
Dr. Chris Maclullich, ZOA country director, said he is excited about the launch of the projects, because it brings together grassrooters engaging with government by further building civil trust.
Maclullich underscores the relevance of the project since it would respond to the needs of Liberians who still carry the pains and suffering associated with the war that ended in 2003.
“Since then, some of them have not had that opportunity to express their pains together as community people; and I think this project allows people to heal and reestablish trust and peace in their lives,” he added.