From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Support Sierra Leone's Churches, NCCCUSA Asks

Date 24 Oct 1998 14:49:59

National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA
Contact: NCC News, 212-870-2252
Email:; Website



NEW YORK, Oct. 24 ---- A mission of the
National Council of Churches (NCC) Africa Committee
to Sierra Leone called for a redoubling of support
for the "vibrant, steadfast church community"  which
has resisted a nine-month reign of terror and is
working to recover from the violence even as
conditions in the country remain troubled.
Six representatives of the Africa Committee of
the NCC traveled to Sierra Leone, October 6-12, to
visit the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone and to
express solidarity of North  American churches with
the suffering people and churches of Sierra Leone
and to understand more fully their struggle.
The mission was undertaken in response to an
invitation extended by Mr. Alimamy Koroma, the
General Secretary of the Council of Churches in
Sierra Leone during his last visit to the NCC, in
November 1997.  It was led by Willis Logan, Director
of the Africa Office of the NCC.  The other
participants were:
  Mr. Williamson A. Ademu-John, Member of the Commission
on National and World Mission, Episcopal Church Diocese
of Southern Ohio
  Rev. Oge Beauvoir, Regional Coordinator for
Africa & Middle East Offices, Anglican Church of
  Mr. Lionel Derenoncourt, Associate for
International Hunger Concerns, Presbyterian
Hunger Program, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
  Pastor Benyam A. Kassahun, Program Director for
English Speaking,
 Western and Southern Africa, Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America
  Mr. C. Richard Parkins, Director, Episcopal
Migration Ministries, The Episcopal Church Center
The participants in the mission heard accounts
of churches losing hundreds of members who were
killed in rebel instigated riots or displaced by
rebel raids and now living in camps within Sierra
Leone or among the over 400,000 refugees in Guinea
and Liberia.  Many clergy are missing or have been
The mission also saw damaged or destroyed
schools and medical facilities and came to
understand the key role that the churches play in
the provision of education and health care
throughout Sierra Leone.
The mission visited three centers housing
nearly 24,000 uprooted people.  At the Waterloo
refugee camp about 20 miles from Freetown, the
participants heard personal stories of brutality and
tragedy from the war which poignantly underscored
the horror of Sierra Leone's civil strife.
  A young boy of eight haltingly told of his left
hand being amputated because he failed to
convince rebel leaders that he had no information
about ECOMOG forces in the area (ECOMOG is the
West African peacekeeping force operating in
Sierra Leone).  He was forced to witness the
killing of his parents.
  Another young student who dared keep a diary of
what was happening in his village as the rebels
moved in had most of his right arm removed to
ensure that his life as a student would be more
difficult to pursue.  This act was performed by
his 15-year-old brother at the coercion of his
rebel captors.
  A young mother of four, seven months pregnant,
left the quarters of the commander to whom she
had been delivered to find most of her people
massacred.  She was forced to witness the killing
of her two oldest children.  As she tried to
escape with her 21-month-old twins, a rain of
rebel bullets injured the twin she was carrying
and wounded the mother in her left leg.  The leg
could not be saved but she and her child
survived, and her baby was delivered.

These and other stories provided dramatic
testimony to the deep pain and suffering the
churches are now called upon to heal.  The Council
of Churches - a coalition of 18 Protestant
denominations throughout Sierra Leone - has been a
major force in coordinating the rebuilding and
peacemaking efforts of the church community.
Participants in the mission shared in several
discussions with church leaders about their role in
peacemaking and national recovery.  In the press
statement they issued, they said "a major finding of
the mission is that CCSL and its member churches
should be affirmed in their role as peacemakers and
community builders" and they identified "a need for
substantial grassroots involvement both in
reconstruction and rehabilitation," stressing that
"many church leaders emphasized that unless
resources provided by the international community
were adequate to the task and accessible to them
directly, their response would be limited."  The
mission participants concluded their visit by
worshipping in several local congregations.
In leaving Sierra Leone, the mission learned of
new rebel advances and atrocities in the Kambia
district - a reminder that there is every urgency
about securing the peace in Sierra Leone.

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