Ignorance of History is NO Excuse!

By Siahyonkron Nyanseor

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

January 7, 2002

S. Nyanseor
I read with complete disappointment the recent comment made by Mr. Toman Gboyah, Chairman of the Board of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Bassa Organization in the Americas (UNIBOA-PA) at the chapter's installation program on December 28, 2002. At the program, Mr. Toman Gboyah is reported to have said, "Praise the Lord, ... What I like about being a Bassa is that we are all Christians. ...There is no single Muslim among us here".

The article, published by The Perspective on January 2, 2003, went further to say, "the predominantly Bassa audience let out a salvo of thunderous voices," which could be interpreted as agreement with Mr. Gboyah's comment. If this is not the case, I would think an apology from the leadership of the national organization and Mr. Gboyah will be in order, for being ignorance of Christian and Liberian history is NO excuse.

Robert Garguah
Regarding Mr. Gboyah's comment, Mr. Robert A. Garguah, an officer of Amunyahn Bassa Association of Georgia, member chapter of the United Bassa Association in the Americas (UNIBOA) contacted Mr. Gboyah on Sunday, January 5, 2003 to obtain his side of the story. In the process, he admitted making the comment but said it was not intended as it is being perceived.

As a member of the august chapter of Amunyahn, I would like to distance myself from Mr. Gboyah's comment on the grounds that his comment is in opposition to the teachings of CHRIST, to whom Mr. Gboyah professed to be a follower of. Secondly, his comment is not only misleading, it was also made at a time in our history (Liberian) when we are searching for peaceful means to reconcile our differences, which was visited upon us by the inhumane practices of Liberia's ruling elites and the senseless and devastating civil war.

In view of the above, I will assume that Mr. Gboyah's comment was either a "Freudian slip" or due to his ignorance of the teachings of Jesus Christ and the reading of the "TRUE" history of Liberia. By this I mean as Christians, we are no better than Muslims. All of us have falling short in observing the Commandments of GOD. And it was due to this reason, God Almighty, sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we will be saved. Herein is LOVE, not that we love God, but that He loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Jesus' Sermon on the Mount

In Jesus' famous Sermon on the Mount, he admonished his followers, "You are the salt of the earth." By this statement, Jesus implied that their preaching about God's Kingdom would have a potentially preserving, or life-saving influence on their hearers. And in our century, it took a Hindu, Mohandas K. Gandhi to epitomize the teachings of Jesus. In his encounter with the British viceroy of India, he said: "When your country and mine shall get together on the teachings laid down by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount, we shall have solved the problems, not only of our countries but those of the whole world."

Liberian History

Regarding Liberia, it was said that Liberia was founded on Christian principles; yet the problems of our beloved country is rooted in the misapplication of Christianity (the teachings of CHRIST), who through Christ, God gave us the framework by which we are able to gain understanding of the important lessons of history. Instead, MAN ignored his Creator's advice and chose the way that seemed right to himself. This very fact is evident in the speech by one of the early leaders of the Liberian Christian Church, an Episcopal cleric by the name of Rev. Alexander Crummell (1819 - 1898).

According to Nat Galarea Gbessagee, Rev. Crummell's speech to the "Common Council and the citizens of Monrovia" on July 26, 1855 celebrating Liberia's eighth independence anniversary set in motion the duality of the Liberian Christian Church. In the speech, he outlined their political, economic and spiritual salvation. It was Rev. Crummell's master plan, members of the Liberian Christian Church and the ruling Americo-Liberian elites --both being one and the same-used to appropriate land, oil, ivory and other fine goods and cattle from the indigenous Liberian population to foster their personal well-being, comfort and enrichment:

"Gentlemen, we are all descendants of Africa, and hence we claim a special interest in, and a peculiar right to, her fruits, her offerings, and her gifts. But, after all, how very limited is our participation therein! I hear, Gentlemen, of ivory, and oil, and dyes, and precious woods, and gold flowing from all parts of this western coast to foreign lands, to enrich their princely merchants, and to build up their great houses… But I must say, nevertheless, that I should like to see some of these great houses here; and to recognize, as some of these princely merchants, the merchants of our own town and country, citizens of this Republic! I am not satisfied, --I tell you the truth, --that the wealth of this, our Africa, should make other men wealthy and not ourselves. It troubles me in the night, and in the day it vexes me, that of all the moneys poured out here for fish, and meats, and shoes, and merchandise, so little stays at our own water-side..."

"I am aware of our slender resources and our thinly-scattered population, and no wise man expects an infant to do a giant's work. But we can do something. Let us systematically, year by year, push more and more into the country, if it be but ten, or even five miles a year; open gradually a highway into the interior; - look out the goodly land beyond us, 'well watered everywhere as the garden of the Lord,' and appropriate it; press onward a highway for the tribes far back, nigh the mountains, to come unmolested hitherward by open roads; and so by and by we may get large herds of cattle from the interior, and instead of sending some 50,000 or 100,000 dollars out of the Republic for tire single article of meats, we may have 'our oxen around us strong to labor,' and 'our sheep may bring forth thousands and tells of thousands in our streets…'"

During another speaking engagement at which Rev. Crummell spoke on the topic, "The Duty Of A Rising Christian State To Contribute To The World's Well-Being And Civilization; And The Means By Which It May Perform The Same", he said: "Our independence of the foreign market, the cessation of our semi-annual and exhausting wars, the promotion of industrial habits among the natives, the opening of larger farms among ourselves, the wide promotion of civilization, and the extension of the gospel in the interior, are all connected with road-making. With regard to belligerent nations (native Liberian ethnic groups), no better plan could be adopted than that of obliging them to keep wide roads open wherever they live nigh our settlements; and whenever a war occurs they should be forced, as one of the terms of treaty, to open a road some thirty or forty miles into the heart of their country. Trade would then keep it open, and they cannot fight in an open country".

This was the so-called Christian foundation on which our beloved country was founded, and which Mr. Gboyah and those who applauded him arrogantly cherished to the point of castigating those who believe in Islam and traditional (African) religions. What a pity!

However, being ahead of his time, Edward Wilmot Blyden had a better understanding and appreciation for what constituted a nation and what it took to hold the nation together. According him:

"A group of returned exiles - refugees from the house of bondage settled along a few hundred miles of the coast of their Fatherland, attempting to rule millions of people, their own kith and kin, on a foreign system in which they themselves have been imperfectly trained, while knowing very little of the facts of the history of the people they assume to rule, either social, economic or religious, and taking for granted that the religious and social theories they have brought from across the sea must be adapted to all the need of their unexpatriated brethren.

"Liberia is a little bit of South Carolina, of Georgia, of Virginia that is to say - of the ostracized, suppressed, depressed elements of these states - tacked on to West Africa - a most incongruous combination, with no reasonable prospect of success; and further complicated by additions from other sources. We take a bit from England, a bit from France, a little bit from Germany, and try to compromise with all. We have no definite plan, no dominating race conception, with really nothing to help us from behind the scene whence we came and nothing to guide us from before the goal to which we are tending or should tend. We are severed from the parent stock - the aborigines - who are the root, branch, and flower of Africa and of any Negro State in Africa."

Furthermore, we are reminded by Thomas Jefferson that "If a Nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.... If we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American (every Liberian) to be informed." For "He who cannot remember the past will be condemned to repeat it." This is precisely the point I intend to drive home here in this article. Therefore, a reckless statement like, "Praise the Lord, ... What I like about being a Bassa is that we are all Christians. ...There is no single Muslim among us here" that has gotten us where we find ourselves today - divided.

In fact, it is not right to condemn an entire religious group on account of few of its members who have committed crimes against humanity. If this was the case, the same wrath should have been directed at Christians who have committed similar crimes. Liberia's warlord President Charles Taylor, a professed Christian, who destroyed our country and has abandoned the welfare of his people, should have been dealt the same treatment for violating these Christian values.

Lest we forget too that Muslims have contributed to the progress of the Liberia. The first indigenous Secretary of State (Minister of Foreign Affairs), Momolu Dukuly (1903-1980) was of the Muslim faith. Therefore, to underscore my point, we need to learn from the example Jesus made regarding a blind man leading another blind person; the result of which, both men fell into a pit. We should not allow this to happen to us (Liberians).

As a matter of fact, Christianity has not been FREE of atrocities. Like the Islamic raids, conquests and conversions, Christian and theological history indicate that Pope Urban II's Crusade of 1095 established one of the worse precedence in the history of Christendom. For instance, it was a practice for Pope Urban II to give the Church's so-called Crusaders his "blessing" in order for them to annihilate those they considered their enemies. Yet Jesus, the head of the Christian church taught us to love our enemies. In Matthew 26:52, we are told when Jesus Christ, the head of Christendom, was being arrested and the apostle Peter attempted to defend him with his sword, Jesus rebuked Peter and said: "Return your sword to its place, for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword."

Jesus' message is abundantly CLEAR, therefore, it is only a fool that will believe just anything (Proverb 14:15). At least education shows one how to think and act independently. But Liberians have had a long history of following the crowd blindly; only to find out that not what everybody thinks or does is necessarily correct.

Since no country or society is completely free of racism, discrimination or ethnocentrism, most civilized nations continue to make every effort to improve relations among their ethnic groups. We too, could begin to do the same by making every attempt to reconcile our differences. Instead of some among us claiming be pious because they are Christians, therefore God's "chosen religion".

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