From the Worldwide Faith News archives

LWF general secretary calls for aid to Liberia

Date 01 Oct 1998 11:05:31

Appeal follows talks with Liberian President Charles Taylor

GENEVA, 28 September 1998 (lwi) - The general secretary of the Lutheran
World Federation (LWF), Dr. Ishmael Noko, has launched a call to the
international community to come to the aid of Liberia. In a statement
issued subsequent to a meeting with Liberian President Charles Ghankay
Taylor in Monrovia on September 3, Noko emphasized the importance of both
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the churches in rebuilding and
reconciling Liberian society.

Liberia has only just begun to recover from a murderous seven-year-long
civil war which ended last year. Lack of support for the country at this
point, warned Noko, could fuel the current sense of insecurity and
eventually lead to new conflicts.

The discussion with the president revolved mainly around the theme of the
reconstruction of Liberia and reconciliation among its peoples, focusing
particularly on the role of the churches in this process.

According to Noko, "The foundation of reconciliation in Liberia can
undoubtedly be found in its rich cultural tradition." He added that
President Taylor had emphasized his desire to apply traditional African
ways of dealing with and resolving conflict, including the involvement of
the family and community in conflict resolution and reconciliation. This
will directly engage the peoples of Liberia at the community level.

"The truth," said Noko, "must be confronted, so that it does not cast a
dark shadow on children yet unborn. The welfare of those children, and
healing for the traumas suffered by this generation, depend upon honesty
and openness about what has happened in the past. The Lutheran Church of
Liberia, in a joint program with the LWF, is responding in a practical and
effective way to this call."

Preparedness to confront the truth should be reflected institutionally,
says the LWF general secretary. He thus advocates that steps be taken to
ensure that the Liberian Commission on Human Rights have the capacity to
properly fulfil its mandate in an effective and independent way. This
includes the authority to obtain testimony by appropriate enforceable
means, i.e. by subpoena.

Another important undertaking in this regard, according to Noko, is the
integration of the former armed factions into the security forces of the
new Liberia. President Taylor has begun this, but a comprehensive training
program needs to be set up, aimed at professionalizing them as well as
sensitizing them to human rights principles.

During the talks, President Taylor recognized the extent to which
international NGOs were responsible for maintaining life in Liberia during
the years of fighting, and acknowledged their continuing humanitarian
commitment to the reconstruction of the country. He clearly indicated his
intention to meet with NGO representatives in the near future, in order to
engage in a dialogue which will affirm the significance of the humanitarian
role they played during the conflict and its immediate aftermath and to
facilitate their continuing involvement.

The president also assured Noko of his openness to dialogue with the
churches and civil society on the issues touching national reconstruction
and reconciliation. Noko declared, "The LWF is convinced that this sort of
broad-based dialogue is an essential ingredient in the formation of a
peaceful society. Openness to dialogue is also what the democratic mandate
given to the Government by the people of Liberia in the elections just over
a year ago requires and implies."

"The LWF," Noko continued: "is committed to accompanying the churches and
peoples of Liberia as they pray and work to strengthen the peace and to
promote reconciliation. Through the activities of the LWF field office in
Liberia and of the Lutheran Church in Liberia in trauma healing; food
security; and in the restoration, maintenance and operation of schools
(such as the Lutheran Training Institute) and hospitals and other medical
facilities (such as Phebe Hospital and Curran Hospital), the LWF seeks to
give practical expression to this commitment."

Most significant was President Taylor's invitation to Noko to return to
Liberia to continue the discussion in more detail. This Noko is resolved to
do. "As long as there is no reconciliation in Liberia, there can be no
reconciliation in the region or in Africa as a whole," he concluded.

Noko was accompanied in the talks by Bishop Sumoward E. Harris of the
Lutheran Church in Liberia, Reinhard Tietze, the resident representative of
the LWF in Liberia and Noko's assistant for international affairs and human
rights, Peter Prove.

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Lutheran World Information
Editorial Assistant: Janet Bond-Nash

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