From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Episcopalians join ecumenical team visiting war-torn Sierra Leone

From John Rollins <>
Date 26 Oct 1998 20:35:54

Episcopalians join ecumenical team visiting war-torn Sierra Leone

by Margaret S. Larom
(ENS) Stunned by witnessing the evidence of brutality beyond
imagining, Episcopalians recently returned from a solidarity mission to
Sierra Leone have expressed confidence in the ability of churches to
help in the reconciliation of a traumatized society.

Responding to an appeal from the Council of Churches of Sierra
Leone, an ecumenical team from North America spent eight days in the
West African country, which is struggling to recover from a horrific
campaign of terror by rebels who have tried unsuccessfully to overthrow
a democratic government.

The group met with church leaders, including both Anglican
bishops, and representatives of various humanitarian agencies. In
Freetown, the capital, they saw burned-out cars and buildings, bullet
holes everywhere. In the countryside they visited communities where
schools and clinics had been destroyed or damaged, apparently out of
sheer vengeance; they worshiped in churches only recently repaired and
rededicated. The rebels have a name for their campaign: "Operation No
Living Thing."

Most moving of all, however, were the visits to the camps for the
internally displaced--especially Waterloo, where 263 amputees are being
cared for. Richard Parkins, director of Episcopal Migration Ministries,
said that after hearing some of the victims describe the mutilation they

suffered at the hands of the rebels, he went back to the vehicle and
broke down.

"One little boy, only 8 years old, was so frightened as he told
his story that his body was trembling, though it was months later. I
have never seen such stark manifestation of evil. The cruelty is
unbelievable. And yet these things happened in a society of good people,

who themselves are shocked by what has happened," he said.

The ecumenical mission affirmed the need to support the churches
as fully as possible in their quest to restore their country and people
to wholeness. "They see themselves as instruments of recovery. They are
everywhere; they historically have provided social services, schools and

hospitals to the communities; they have the local knowledge and skills
so desperately needed for recovery and reconciliation," said Parkins.
Also, as a UNICEF worker told him, "The churches have incredible
legitimacy in Sierra Leone because the pastors stayed with their people
during the reign of terror. They spoke for democracy and against the
junta's attempt to overthrow the democratic government. Therefore they
can play a major role in peacekeeping and reconciliation."

Other members of the mission to Sierra Leone were: Willis Logan,
director, Africa Office, National Council of the Churches of Christ in
the USA; Williamson Ade Ademu-John, Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio;
the Rev. Canon Oge Beauvoir, Anglican Church of Canada; Lionel
Derenoncourt, Hunger Fund, Presbyterian Church of the USA; and Benuam
Kassahum, coordinator for West Africa, Evangelical Lutheran Church in

--Margaret S. Larom is the Episcopal Church's world mission
interpretation and networks officer.

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