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Liberia a "Christian nation?" Conventioneers hurt efforts to build a unified and peaceful nation

By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh                               Gloria Musu-Scott



“Liberia was founded on Christian principles.”

Growing up and going to school in Liberia, I must confess, I heard the phrase countless times in the classroom and in many other forums.

Whether those six words are true or not rest solely in the eyes and minds of those that want Liberians or the world to believe it.

The Liberian government at the time – the Tolbert administration believed it; and his predecessor also believed it and made it a national policy.

As a result, most Liberian school kids during my days there and after my time in the Liberian public school system, were forced to perform the rituals that supposedly made Liberia a Christian state.

As the home to multitude of religions with Christianity and Islam as the two leading religions, the government did not care whether the imposition of Christianity on the population made any sense.

What made sense to the Liberian government was for school kids in the Liberian public school system to be forced to attend daily devotional ceremonies, which included Christian prayers and scriptures-reading.

As a practicing Baptist preacher at the time, it made sense to President Tolbert whose Vice President Bennie D. Warner was a Bishop of the Methodist Church of Liberia.

This narrow belief perhaps led Mr. Tolbert and those before and after him to conclude that Liberia was a theocratic republic guided by the principles of their Christian faith.

It is one thing for an individual to drive a group of people to believe in his or her line of thinking; and another when the individual failed to be a guiding example of what he or she professes to be.

As a dictator in the line of the autocratic President William V. S. Tubman whom he succeeded, the public Mr. Tolbert proved the opposite of the private man he was in a country that revered the imperial presidency.

However, in the face of the rhetorical notion that ‘Liberia was founded on Christian principles,’ the individuals who pushed that talking point behaved Un-Christ-like, and were busy oppressing, starving and denying (native) Liberians their basic rights to be free and to have the opportunity to strive for higher things in life.

So why the hypocrisy?

The recent four-day National Constitutional Review Conference held in Gbarnga, Liberia, which ended on Thursday, April 2, 2015 was about many things; one of which was not to have or have a national religion that dominates the lives of all Liberians.

Even though most Liberians are practicing members of different religions or belongs to no religion, the overwhelming and divisive theme at the Constitution Review Conference, which needed clarification and endorsement was whether Liberia was a “Christian nation.”

Unfortunately, the Bible-toting, holy ghost-filled folks at the convention not seeing the divisiveness in this issue, voted according to their conscience to make Liberia a “Christian nation.”

Certainly, this thing about Liberia being a ‘Christian nation’ is a divisive issue.

And Liberia as a nation with many real life problems that needs long and short-term attention cannot afford to be bogged down by an issue that will not bring peace to the country, provide shelter for Liberians, and put food on the table of ordinary Liberians.

So why bring up this issue during these fragile and uncertain times about Liberia being a “Christian Nation” and not a nation that belongs to all Liberians and their religions?

Why did the conventioneers not mandate and recommend in the constitution that the Liberian government provide jobs, and Liberians of working age and those with the ability to work be without a job? This act at least will put a dent in poverty and hunger prevalent in the country?

Why dwell on foolishness?

Of course, I am all in for reducing those insane nine and seven-year legislative terms, and I am also for reducing the powers of the imperial presidency. I have written extensively about those issues, and have shown my anger for too long. I am glad someone finally listened.

However, since corruption is crazily rampant, why not strongly recommend that those found guilty in a court of law be prosecuted and their stolen wealth confiscated?

Why did these people not recommend that nepotism in all shapes and forms be eliminated and not encouraged?

Why did these people not recommend improving the tax systems in Liberia, to raise needed funds to contruct modern roads and bridges, and to put electricity in all of Liberia’s cities and rural areas? Why not recommend the elimination of all import taxes for Liberians business owners who are shipping to Liberia, so as to create jobs for unemployed Liberians?

Why not work hard to decentralize the centralized political system, so that the various counties can be self-governed and their hard-earned tax dollars be used in their own regions?

One thing I know about Liberians is that we are too quick to forget the reason or reasons that led to the 14-year civil war – a senseless war that killed innocent Liberians.

I also want to believe that Liberians have already forgotten their terrible plight of poverty, hunger, bad schools or no schools, the obvious lack of affordable and accessible healthcare and roads, and what led to the popular call to amend the current constitution in the first place.

Are these individuals who forced this thing down the throats of the conventioneers serious about peace in the country, or are they serious about marginalizing a section of the population?

Do we want religious war in Liberia, and do we want to be like Nigeria?

Liberia is too old a country to always revert to amending its constitution because some intellectual was too afraid to stand up to a dictator who was bent on remaining in power.

Instead of convening a select few to discuss what needs to be in the next constitution, I will suggest a national referendum that brings all the nation’s people onboard to determine their own future.









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