The traditional leaders of Liberia, under the wise leadership of their Chairman, Chief Zanzan Kawor, have come out in full force to reject the idea of a “Christian state” being part of the impending 2017 referendum.
During a two-day meeting at the Monrovia City Hall last week, the traditional leaders called on Liberians to reject Proposition 24 being included in the ensuing referendum. Proposition 24 proposes that Liberia should be declared a “Christian state.”
The Chiefs and Elders declared that the Founding Fathers in 1847 placed in the Constitution that Liberia was to remain a secular state. This was even though the Fathers from America were all Christian. They realized that Islam had been here over a hundred years before they (the Founding Fathers) got here in 1822.
Indeed, history records that when the settlers from America started having trouble over land they had purchased from the Bassa and Dey chiefs, it was the leader from Bopolu, Sao Boso, then known as Chief Boatswain, who intervened and forced these chiefs to honor their land sale to the colonists. Sao Boso was a Muslim leader, founder of the Condo Confederation, which collapsed following his death in 1837.
Chief Varney Jallah of Gbarpolu County, from which Sao Boso hailed, told last week’s Traditional Leaders meeting, “If the pioneers had wanted to make Liberia a Christian state, they would have done it. They did not, and it is now too late for that. As traditional leaders, we are responsible for the Liberian people and we are the real owners of the land and we say we don’t want Liberia to be labeled a Christian nation,” Chief Varney Jallah added.
Cultural Ambassador Julie Endee told the meeting, “No matter whether we are Christian or Muslim, we must show respect to one another in order to promote peace in the country.”
Traditional Leader Zanzan Kawor told the meeting that most of them, unlike many Liberians, have “no Green Cards” that would enable those who possess them to run to America if trouble comes to Liberia. As a result, he declared, “we cannot sit supinely and wait for our country to be thrown into trouble.”
Recalling the April 14, 1979 Rice Riots that threw Liberia into chaos, leading to the 1980 coup d’état and the civil war, Chief Haji Sombai of Grand Cape Mount County urged the young people of Liberia, some of whom are threatening demonstrations against the government, to listen to the traditional leaders and work with them to maintain the peace. “Whatever be our youths’ grievances, we can handle them for the sake of peace,” said Chief Sombai.
The Chairman of the Nimba Chiefs and Elders, Chief Peter Barloun, also called on the young people to complain to them (the Traditional Leaders) for redress of their concerns.
Just as the Daily Observer indicated in its Thursday, March 10 Editorial, most of the Traditional Leaders said Proposition 24 “is not what Liberians need to develop their country.”
The Traditional Leaders who met at the Monrovia City Hall included those from the entire southeastern Liberia—Grand Gedeh, River Gee, Grand Kru, Maryland and Sinoe counties, as well as those from Rivercess and Grand Bassa counties.
Sheik Abubakar Kamara of Lofa County, who is also Chairman of the National Muslim Council of Liberia, said it was unfortunate that some people are telling us that we should all be called “Christians” instead of Liberians.
It is hard to recall any idea that has been advanced on the national scene that is more divisive than this ‘Christian state’ idea. The people who are proposing such an idea are totally ignoring the rise of Islamic militancy not only in the Middle East but around the world. And they think that Boko
Haram’s murderous attacks on Nigeria is a joke. For true? Are they (the advocates of a ‘Christian state’) aware that Boko Haram has now spread its murderous attacks to Cameroon, Chad and Niger?
Did these ‘Christian state’ advocates miss what happened in La Cote d’Ivoire last week, when a Sahara Desert Islamic sect, AQIM, attacked the plush touristic site, Grand Bassam, only 50 kilometers east of Abidjan? Did they also forget that hotels in Burkina Fasa and Mali have also recently come under attack?
Today, as there has been since the founding of the Liberian republic, peaceful coexistence has subsisted between the people practicing the world’s two great religions—Christianity and Islam. Who in his right mind would want to change that, especially in this dangerous era of widening and increasingly brutal and murderous militancy taking place around the world in the name of Islam?
We pray that other groups around the country, including major churches, the Liberia Council of Churches (LCC), the National Student Christian Council (NSCC), the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Christian Associations (YM and YW CAs) and other credible institutions will add their voices to the campaign to rid us of this dangerously menacing idea of a ‘Christian state’ in Liberia.