For those who downplay the prevalence (commonness, predominance) of witchcraft in Liberia, let us remind you of a story of what a Sinoe man once told his relatives in Sinoe County, who had asked him to send his 20-year-old daughter to spend time.
The man told his relatives, “I will not send my daughter to you to die.” And he did not send his daughter who, now in her late fifties, told this story to a Daily Observer reporter.
Her father knew his people too well, and not them only, but other people in various parts of the country whose envy and wickedness have caused many promising young people their lives.
There are numerous stories of young men and women who, after having won a scholarship to study abroad, returned to their relatives in the counties to say goodbye. And too many of them never made it back to Monrovia to begin the journey abroad. They remained right there among their own people and died—from what? The exact same thing that Sinoe father feared would have happened to his daughter.
Now we will tell you another story of two sisters from one of the interior counties. They took their education very seriously, did very well in school and later became prominent Liberian professionals.
They decided to build their mother a modern home with inside bath, toilet and kitchen facilities, a porch to entertain her friends, etc. Their aim was to move her out of the house they (the daughters) had grown up in and grant her some comfort and greater respectability as she grew older.
For their own protection, we will not name their county.
But the beloved mother, seeing how determined her two daughters were to improve her living standard, asked her daughters a question that totally startled (shocked) them: “Are you ready to bury me?”
“What are you talking about, Mother?” the daughters, in total astonishment, asked their mom.
Her response was swift. “Even as the house is going up—no, these people won’t wait for me to move in—they will kill me through witchcraft.”
“Why, Mother?” the two daughters asked.
“Because of envy, my children. You see now how undeveloped this town that we call our city is? That is the reason. Nobody wants to bring real development because of fear—fear of death, because that is what these, our people, will do to those who want to see progress in their lives and that of the community.”
“So,” she pleaded with her two daughters, “let me remain in my house until the Lord Himself calls me.”
And that is what happened. Several decades later they buried their mom from that same old house. Following the 1980 coup d’état they left the country and have remained abroad.
So how, then, are we to build Liberia where envy and hate, underpinned (buttressed, bolstered) by witchcraft, which pervades the national landscape, instill fear and trepidation (nervousness, foreboding) in the hearts, minds and spirits of the people?
What is the church’s response to all this? The church, which should be the citadel (stronghold, sanctuary) of education, enlightenment and development in all its aspects, should realize that Liberia, though Africa’s oldest republic, is one of its most backward. This is not only because of bad governance—thanks to our leaders who have consistently FOCUSED not on the people’s business, but on themselves, their families and their close friends, leaving Liberia decade after decade in the doghouse—or in the state of disfavor, dependency, trouble and backwardness.
Who remembers Bishop Samuel David Ferguson, Liberia’s first black Episcopal bishop, known as “the Education Bishop?” Yes, it was he who founded and established Cuttington College and Divinity School (now Cuttington University) in Harper, Cape Palmas, Maryland County, in 1889. He also established Bromley Mission, the over one century old girls school in Clay Ashland, Montserrado County. He built these institutions to bring enlightenment to Liberia.
Who remembers the American bishops and educators who established, as far back as 1839, the College of West Africa (CWA) that trained so many generations of Liberian intellectuals and leaders? These American bishops and church leaders also established the Methodist Girls Hostel, which became an educational, social and spiritual sanctuary for hundreds of girls from around the country, and also from Monrovia, to protect them from the masculine wolves seeking to chase and ruin the vulnerable. And where today are the Methodist Girls Hostel and its surroundings? Effectively pushed, hidden, forced in the rear, and its prime frontal spaces leased out to Lebanese for a hotel—The Boulevard Palace—the very antithesis (contrast, opposite) of what the early Methodist leaders envisioned for Liberia’s daughters, future wives, mothers and leaders!
And where are the girls’ hostels in any of the counties? Nowhere to be found. Even Bethany at St. John’s Episcopal Mission in Robertsport, Cape Mount, is gone!
So, if our churches cannot do something to protect our young girls, our future wives, mothers and leaders, will they, can they protect us from witchcraft?
Our churches need to recover that old evangelistic fervor—recapture that “OLD TIME RELIGION” and penetrate the highways, hedges and hinterland to find the lost and “bring them in from the fields of sin,” and into education, enlightenment and modernity. Is there any greater challenge to the churches at this Christmastide? We think not.