There Will Be Peace - If We Turn:
By: The Rev. Coker A. J. George, Jr.
December 25, 2002
During the Advent-Christmas Season of 2000, we were back home on one of our missionary journeys. We frequently visited a restaurant owned by a relative. On one occasion speaking about the deplorable condition of the economy and its impact on the season, she remarked: "Coz, business is so bad and you can't even feel the Christmas spirit. Everything is so still. The breeze is not even blowing; plastic bags and papers are not also blowing around". She continued, "Business is so bad; I have not even sold a plate of rice today. Have you seen Waterside? It isn't even crowded like it used to be. People haven't taken pay in months, and Christmas is coming. Is this how it used to be?" Our reply was a Big No!
Yes, this is not how it used to be! We can recall growing-up, and the expectations and preparations we made for Christmas as kids. The season burst-in with the appearance of "Santa-Claus (the Liberian type) and Oldman Beggars". The name of "Young Girl Chaser" comes to memory as a popular name of one of the Santas. There was also a Speaker who spoke very eloquently about the sojourn of the "Oldman" (as he was also called) that led him to come out to solicit assistance.
For our family, we began celebrating the season in Monrovia, and ended in rural Liberia (Palala, Bong County, and Sanniquellie, Nimba County). The festivities in rural Liberia took on more cultural flavor with the appearance of cultural dancers. Christimas was more than a Christian festival, for in Sanniquellie the Mandigoes and Muslim members of the community joined their Christian counterparts in celebrating the holiday. We had lots of fun, not forgetting the abundance of foods, cakes, and drinks. In addition to our immediate family, members of our extended family from Monrovia joined us at our farm in spending the holidays. We seemed to have had peace and security, because as kids, we had plenty food, new clothes and toys for Christmas. Of course, shooting of firecrackers was also exciting.
The reality of what seemed to have been a peaceful and progressive society began to be unveiled during later years (our University of Liberia's experience). We began to sense that there was a disparity in our society, and things were not "alright and peaceful" as
we were made to believe growing-up. Our living and working in rural Liberia for more than 20 years substantiated this fact. Over those years, we got to find out that our society bred and developed disparity among its people, regardless of ethnicity. For
example, regardless of ethnicity, once you had received some education (degrees, you did not want to return to the "country" to work. The village that was nurtured you, could no longer provide the comfort that was found in the city. Everyone was striving to gain an "achieved status", even if it meant, being a "mosquito police - a dressed up night watchman". Others of the "Settlers background", had to confirm their "ascribed
status" by completing a formal education and affiliation with the fraternities and the Church. While working in the "country" upon one of my business trips to Monrovia, a friend asked, "where are you coming from, abroad?" We replied, "No! We work in the
country". He said, "My man, you will get out of contact".
On the another hand, and very regrettably, even upon returning to the "country" to work and live, or own a farm, our educated elites exploited the rural masses.
Workers on their farms worked for very low wages. In fact, there was a system where the local chiefs were required to send workers on the farms of the "Big
Shots" to work, leaving their own farms. Upon refusal, you were punished. This behavior and system confirmed the disparity in our society. One writer in a book described the economic development in Liberia during the 60's as, "Growth Without Development". This book for several years was banned in Liberia.
Friends, has this changed in Liberia over the years, despite the change of political hands? NO! Of course, there has been personal growth among our elites, and "No National Development". The more than 12 years of civil conflict have exacerbated the condition of our rural brothers, sisters and children. The water and sanitation facilities that were being developed have been destroyed and almost not in existence. Likewise, the health and education institutions lack the basic facilities and materials, and resources (to include Human)among others)to cater to the needs of the masses. Regrettably, conditions in the urban settings are not much better. Interestingly, we felt more comfortable sleeping in our mother's village in #4 District in Grand Bassa than in Monrovia. The air smelled cleaner, and good.
Despite the situation, we remain very appreciative to our fellow friends who over the years have remained faithful in living and working in the "country". You have been faithful in serving the masses of our people, being "out of contact". You will receive your just reward.
As we reflect over the past 22 years with the advent of the so-called revolution that should had brought freedom and development to all our people, we wonder what has happened. We have failed our people, and even glorified the efforts of the past. Instead of building on the "fragile" foundations of the past, we the "liberators and supporters" have participated in the devastation of our country, at the same time exploiting its resources to the demise of the masses of our people, and to our self-enrichment and glorification. We would had thought that being witnesses and victims to the evils of the past, we would had learned a lesson, and taken the divine opportunity "to make right whatsoever went wrong".
Nevertheless the prevailing situation, "There Will Be Peace - If We Turn." There is Hope! And the Hope lies in us as Liberians. It lies in our capacity not just to accept things as they are, but to "Turn", and strive to make a difference; working towards creating an environment, a society where all Liberians and friends of Liberia can live happily and peacefully.
Things are really bad home. Our once proud people have become beggars. Our children have been conscripted to become "child-soldiers". Our teenaged girls and boys are being exploited, engaging in solicitatious relationships as means of supporting themselves, mothers and younger siblings. We can no longer feed ourselves. Our once beloved country is being described as a "disaster country", and the "worst Country in the World" by 2003. There is an old saying that says: "Some doing well, while others are catching hell!
But if there will be peace in Liberia, we have to "Turn". As we celebrate this Advent-Christmas, and look forward to the New Year, we should ask ourselves, individually and collectively, "what can I/We do to better the condition of our country?" What gifts do we (individually) bring towards the betterment of our people and country? Personally, we find solace and affirmation in the Apostle Paul's admonition to the Church in Rome (Romans 12). Paul called on that church, its members, to Present themselves as reasonable sacrifices, which is their service to humanity and God. He said that, this can only be achieved by the transformation (turning) of their minds. By so doing, this will prove what is good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. Paul reminded them that, each one of them has been blessed with gifts by God. And these gifts are to be used for the edification and building of God's kingdom through faithful service to humanity.
We have to turn, developing the spirit of love, and renewed minds/hearts. Of course, just as "fish gets rotten from the head", transformation must start from
the head. It seems like our recent past and present leadership has been like "putting New Wine in Old Wine Skins". Instead of putting the past behind us, the past evils and wrongs have been embraced. Our nation and people have become a reproach, and homeland almost inhabitable. But there is Hope, and there will be
Peace. Let us pray for divine intervention, and avoid continuous bloodshed.
Let us not remain doomful as we celebrate this Christmas and look forward to the New Year. Let us find solace, and respond to the words of the prophet as found in II Chronciles 7:14:
If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and heal their land.
Fellow Liberians, our land will be healed. But we have to turned, be transformed. Let us pray for transformation and renewed spirit and hearts, starting
from the leadership of our country, and for each others as Liberians. Let us stop believing that, "you love Liberia more than your fellow Liberian, or you
are more Liberian than your fellow Liberian". This is a misnomer among some of us. Let us vow and covenant never to: associate, support, embrace, or be part of any group(s) established to destablize the elected government of our beloved Liberia through illegal and bloody means. Our recent experience should be a lesson
to all of us as Liberians.
As we anticipate Election 2003, we pray for our present leadership to create a conducive environment for the democratic to be upheld, making it possible for the opposition to fairly participate in the elections. May God bless the present leadership; all political aspirants; our fellow Liberians, home and abroad; and heal our land. MERRY CHRISTMAS and A VERY HAPPY and PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR!