Tolerance: the Key to Protecting Liberia’s Christian-Muslim Harmony

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Tolerance is a very important    word, and not word only, but concept.  With it, a lot of good can happen between and amongst people or groups within a nation.  Without it,   the exact opposite can occur, a lot of bad.   

Because of the importance of this word, it has many meanings that help us to understand its full import (significance).  One is  broadmindedness.  Another is open-mindedness.  These            denote a willingness of a     person or group to accept another’s belief, way of life or disposition, whether we share it or not.  Of course, it is hoped that another’s belief or way of life depicts good, not evil.

Forbearance—which means patience, self control, restraint, mercy—is another synonym of tolerance. 

So is love—the greatest of all virtues.  It is the greatest because that is God Himself, for Scripture tells us that God is love.  The Apostle Paul says  that among the three principal virtues—faith, hope and love, “the greatest of these is love.”

Our country, Liberia, is truly  blessed.  Yes, it is a land with a plethora (abundance) of differences—ethnic, religious, cultural, etc.—and yes, we have been through a brutal,  totally unnecessary civil war.  It happened only because the leaders did not LISTEN to the cries for change.  Yet, we are  blessed because we love peace.  It was only a few manipulating the many that misled us into war. 

Early in his administration, President W.V.S. Tubman, realized how so many ethnic animosities had in the past ripped the country apart—inter-tribal wars and the divide between the settlers from America and elsewhere and the indigenous majority.  So from the onset he envisioned the Unification Policy and did not rest until he brought constitutional parity (equality, uniformity) between all the groups, in the creation of the four new counties—Bong, Lofa, Nimba and Grand Gedeh.  From then on, these four new counties, like the original five—Montserrado, Grand Bassa, Sinoe, Cape Mount and Maryland—became self-governing (Superintendents, etc.), and represented in the Legislature just as the others—two Senators each and population-dictated representation in the House.    This, mark you, was only a first step up the long ladder of political, economic and social equality, but it was a distinctive and highly significant beginning, that the people NEVER forgot.  Remember, they kept Tubman in power for 27 years! 

But Tubman did something more: He recognized Islam as the faith to which many Liberians adhere.  He also persuaded—even demanded—that Mandingoes, many of whom embrace Islam, should send their children, including the girls, TO REGULAR SCHOOL.  The Mandingoes were reluctant, but gradually became convinced that that indeed was the way forward.

Tubman frequently visited the mosques for worship.  He also,  following Secretary of State Gabriel Lafayette Dennis’ death in 1954, appointed the Mandingoes’ son Momolu Dukuly Secretary of State. 

So Liberia’s Christians and Muslims have for a very long time lived in peace, harmony and cooperation. 

When in 1958 Sekou Toure took Guinea out of the French Federation, President Charles De Gaulle stripped Guinea, the former French colony, of everything.  President Tubman came to Guinea’s rescue and sent them rice, other foodstuffs and money, in emergency relief.

That brought Guineans and Liberians closer together—and we have been ever since.

Remember, too, that in 1958 a Liberian delegation, of which Ambassador Lafayette Diggs is the last surviving member, was in France negotiating a border dispute with the French government.  After Guinea became independent that  October, Liberia withdrew the delegation and terminated the negotiations on the grounds that the territory in dispute had now become “African territory,” a part of the new Republic of Guinea. 

What are we trying to say?

These are the foundations of  the religious harmony that exists among Christians and Moslems in Liberia, and we should allow NOTHING to disturb it.  The religious trouble taking place in Kenya,  Central African Republic (CAR), Mali, Nigeria and elsewhere is alien to Liberia.  But as we saw at the Paynesville Red Light in 2004 and in Voinjama later, religious conflict can quickly spark and spread.  So we all should be very careful and do everything to avoid this.

All of us, Christians and Muslims alike, should resist any attempt by any foreign group to change us from this course.  Liberia, emerging from   a terrible war, is trying to recover over a half century of gains we lost.  Let us maintain our unity and rally to the cause, FORWARD EVER, BACKWARD NEVER!

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