A six-member ecumenical solidarity team from the World Council of Churches (WCC) and All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) will be visiting the West African country of Liberia from 6-12 August 2011, at the request of the General Secretary of the Liberia Council of Churches, Dr Benjamin Dorme Lartey.
The visit comes at a time when Liberian churches have expressed concern for the political situation in Liberia, which has become increasingly polarised in advance of a 23 August national referendum and 11 October presidential and legislative elections.
The ecumenical team will meet with political and church leaders, as well as with women and youth, to encourage the healing and reconciliation process, which has apparently stalled.
In the last 30 years, Liberia has experienced two civil wars, the first from 1980 to 1995 and the second from 1999 to 2003.
“As a country in a post-conflict era, which is striving to rebuild the pieces and rebuild the walls, our people continue to remain divided,” Lartey said in a letter to the WCC General Secretary, the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, and AACC General Secretary, the Rev Dr Andre Karamaga.
In 2006, the government established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to explore the causes and crimes committed during the wars.
“Not much on the national level is going on to bring about meaningful healing and reconciliation,” said Lartey. “The results of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the lack of implementing its recommendations have added to the division in the country,” he said.
Churches in Liberia have been asked by the government to work with the Independent Human Rights Commission to begin the process of healing and reconciliation. According to Lartey, the process has failed to start.
“We are very worried about the adverse consequences within the context which could foresee a violent outcome of the elections, and could lead to another civil war, which Liberians do not want to happen,” Lartey said in his letter.
“The ecumenical team visit is part of WCC’s response in accompanying churches in conflict situations like Liberia’s. The visit will have a positive impact on the current situation in reducing tension,” said Dr Nigussu Legesse, Programme Executive for Africa, who is organising the visit along with the All Africa Conference of Churches.