Wednesday, March 23, 2005
By BosNewsLife News Center
MONROVIA, LIBERIA (BosNewsLife)-- Native missionaries in Liberia are rebuilding damaged churches and evangelizing to help end ethnic and religious strife in the African nation, where two United Nations peacekeepers were injured Wednesday, March 23, UN and Christian officials said.
"Native missionaries...have been busy building and repairing church buildings throughout the country that were damaged in a 14-year-long civil war and, more recently, in outbreaks of fighting between Christians and Muslims," said Christian Aid Mission (CAM) said in a statement to BosNewsLife.
"Fighting between religious groups is a relatively new conflict in Liberia [as] past strife has been along ethnic or political lines," added CAM which claims to represent 700 indigenous ministries with 9,000 missionaries worldwide.
"Gospel workers hope by spreading the gospel of Christ's peace to heal the wounds of prejudice that have plagued Liberia since its settlement in 1822, when conflict between freed slaves from the USA and native peoples first began," it added.
CAM said as part of the "healing" strategy, native missionaries began "a week-long series of evangelistic meetings" in an isolated small town in late February, where "most of the residents were animists, worshiping spirits of nature and ancestors [while] some reportedly even practiced human sacrifice."
The US backed organization did not specify the area, apparently for security reasons, but claimed that "from over 200 villagers" attending the meetings, "a total of 29" became Christians, "including nine Muslims and the chief."
Despite the easing of tensions in some area's, large parts of Liberia remain volatile, with UN officials saying that one UN peacekeeper was seriously wounded and another slightly wounded "when a group of young men threw a petrol bomb at a checkpoint" of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) Wednesday, March 23, in the northern town of Ganta.
"Our information on this attack is still developing. This is a really serious breach of security and is a situation that will require our peacekeepers at checkpoints to be on guard and take extra precaution," said UNMIL Spokesman Paul Risley, in a statement distributed by the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN).
25 people were detained and six of them were considered serious suspects, IRIN reported. The town was once a stronghold of Charles Taylor, a warlord who dominated Liberia for most of the country's 1989-2003 civil war, but who was eventually forced to step down as president and go into exile in Nigeria.
It was the first attack against the 15,000 strong peacekeeping mission in Liberia, which arrived under a UN mandate following a peace deal signed by the warring factions in August 2003, IRIN said. (With: Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife and reports from Liberia).