In 2013, Liberians celebrated a decade of “Hard –won Peace” as described by the President of Liberia. On this occasion, precisely 19th August 2013, the President in her special message emphatically reminded Liberians to promote a multiplicity of peace dividends critical for building our nation.
This is how the President bluntly putted it “No to war. No to Violence. No to the Bearers of Doom. No to Disunity. No to Selfishness. Backward Never, Forward Ever!” The celebration of the decade of peace hailed by the International Community indicated that we are on the right trajectory toward peace-building as long as we as a nation will be very mindful of any practice, conduct, law, policy etc. capable of reflecting the admonition of our President.
As one of the proposed amendments to the constitution of Liberia contained in the recommendations of the Constitution Review Committee recently adopted in Gbangar, Bong County, it is cleared that we have so soon forgotten the special message delivered by the President despite protests and opposition statements that would have reminded us about the implications for making Liberia a Christian State or Nation.
It may not be surprising to think that those who advocating to Christianize Liberia by law are not aware or conscious about the imminent implications on the “Hard-won peace” especially for a society in post conflict transition. If they are conscious or aware about the implications and still continue the advocacy, it can be inferred that to them, the amendment will cause no harm.
From the history of religion as one of the fundamental causes associated with many conflicts in Africa and other part of the globe couple with our background in Peace and Conflict Studies, this article carefully looks at the implications of the amendment of the constitution to Christianize Liberia will have on post-conflict reconstruction that also include peace building.
To begin with, let it be cleared that religion by itself has arguably never been a source of conflict. It is a fundamental right enjoyed by society. However, the way in which it is translated into practice can pull the trigger for potential overt form of violent conflict. For example, the Inter-ethnic conflict in Nigeria has generally had a religious element. By way of research, we learned that the 2010 Jos riots saw clashes between Muslim herders against Christian farmers near the volatile city of Jos, resulting in hundreds of casualties. Officials estimated that 500 people were massacred in night-time raids by rampaging Muslim gangs.
In Central Africa Republic, the conflict that started since 2004 has an ethno-religious dimension between the Muslim and Christian communities.
Similarly, in 2004 or 2005, some part of Liberia, precisely in Paynesville, Jacob Town, Seventy second (72nd), Black Gina community etc. we experienced a deadly violence and properties damaged as a result of a conflict expressed through religious dimension between the Muslims and Christians. If you can recall, Churches including the Jehovah Witness Chapel, the Ark of God church in Black Gina and mosquitos were burned. This happened when nobody was thinking about changing the law to Christianize Liberia. Imagine the implications for the peace that we now enjoy and probably the international dimension that may emerge?
It is my understanding that proponents for Christianizing Liberia by law are making reference to other Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Guinea, Morocco etc. where Islam is the State religion that identified the people and so what is wrong with Liberia doing the same? What proponents need to understand about comparing Liberia to any Country that has a state religion by law as in Saudi Arabia is just like comparing apples and oranges. Emphatically, the culture and history of Liberia and these Islamic States are too aloof. What I think may invalidate the comparison from proponents is seen from the fact that it is not the entire Christian Communities in support for the amendment.
As explained by proponents, amending the constitution to Christianize Liberia will not in any way or form deny other religions their rights to worship. However, it has imminent implications. One of the implications is the potential for introducing another ideological conflict difficult to resolve because it is associated with people or group’s identity. Ideological conflict that has a religion under tone or semblance always conveyed a sense of discrimination to the affected group that may have other implications express through strategic political positions, employment, even widen the already gap in inter-marriage etc. In the case of Liberia, that is why the non-Christian particularly the Muslims are protesting because they are thinking about the implications.
In Peace and Conflict Studies, there is a positive correlation between discrimination and conflict. When people feel discriminated whether by de jure or de-facto, the obvious result is to be disgruntle especially in situation where a given religion indoctrinate its members to fight for what is perceive as denial in whatever form. Moreover, legalizing a particular religion conveys a sense of religious inferiority to the affected groups and eventually pushes them against the wall. Researches have documented that people are ever prepared and ready to give their lives in the fight for religious recognition due to religious intolerance.
In Peace and Conflict Studies, the potential for conflicts have always manifested by the term Early Warnings often ignored by society or government. To put simple, Early Warnings are clues that something bad is likely to happen if not prevented or disengaged. In this case of Liberia, all of the protests and oppositions not only from Muslims backgrounds but also some mainland churches and prominent Liberians are the indicators or Early Warnings that we must carefully dissect as a nation with a history of civil conflict that bears the semblance of ideological conflict.
From careful analysis, the quest or desire to Christianize Liberia is a complete contradiction of the multiplicity of peace dividends our President has asked us (Liberians) to promote. Instead of keeping our minds busy to sustain or keep us on the “Hard-won Peace” trajectory, we are using the same mind to engage into a conduct that has the propensity to derail the “Hard-won Peace” trajectory. We have come a long way working together as a people and nation that in other words implies peaceful co-existence. So why introduce religious intolerance that will fragment our society already faced with daunting challenges incurred from the fourteen years civil war?
If proponents are of the strongest conviction that Christianizing Liberia will significantly impact our society, let them utilize any platform to pinpoint or identify some of the positive impacts prior to the scarping of the constitutional provision of Liberia being a Christian state by the 1986 Constitution Review Committee.
Finally, if we will democratically err to Christianize Liberia by law, let us now start pondering about how we will cope or deal with the imminent consequences.
About the Author
Mr. Ambrues M. Nebo holds MSc in the top 5 % of the graduating Class in Peace and Conflict studies with specialty in Humanitarian and Refugee Studies form University of Ibadan, Nigeria, Post Graduate Certificate with distinction in Public Administration from Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration Ghana, BA Hon (Magna Cum Laude) in Sociology from African Methodist Episcopal Zion University College in Liberia and various International Certificates in peacekeeping operations from the Kofi Anna International Peacekeeping Training Centre in Ghana.
Besides this article, he has authored a dozen of articles dealing with contemporary issues in Africa and Liberia in which some of his articles (Stop Pointing Fingers at the West for Political Problems in Africa, Is Prolonged Regime, a Recipe for Potential Problems in Africa? and Instead of the International Criminal Court, blame our Leaders, Internal Brain Drain: Potential Consequences on the Liberia National Police tec.) can be accessed online at google search.
By Ambrues M. Nebo