Inter-Religious Council Reacts to the Bethesda Conference Report

(A Reaction to the report from the Liberian Leadership Conference held June 28-29, 2002, in Bethesda, Maryland, USA)

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

October 8, 2002

Inter-Religious Council of Liberia/USA
P.O. BOX 130 197
Brooklyn, NY 11213-4240
TEL.: 718-953-2518
FAX: 718-953-1294

September 30, 2002

We are grateful to the organizers of the Liberia Leadership Conference (LLC) for the invitation extended us as religious leaders who have been involved in the Liberian peace process from the beginning of the civil crisis, to attend and participate in the Conference.

It is unfortunate however, that we were not furnished with copies of the Conference Report for the past three months. We thank God that we obtained copies of the Conference Report a couple of days ago from a friend. Since we were not at the plenary session where these major decisions were taken, we were aghast by some of the things we read in the Report, hence this Reaction.

We gladly accepted the invitation to attend the Liberia Leadership Conference because we felt that the Conference brought together Liberian opposition political parties, civil society organizations, and religious leaders to build bridges and engender trust and confidence between and amongst Liberians. However, we feel that the following issues as set forth in the Report, do not lend themselves to the building of bridges and engendering trust and confidence between Liberian opposition political parties, civil society organizations, religious leaders and the Government.

The Report states that: "The Conference noted that the political differences of the Liberian people, over the years, have been exacerbated by the Government of the Republic of Liberia, a situation which has led to the distrust, declining sense of patriotism and nationalism, enmity, instability, and recurring civil crisis."

Among us at the Conference, we failed to see the spirit and desire for true reconciliation. The Good Book says, "Why do you see the speck in your neighbour's eye but do not notice the log in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:3).

The report further states: "...The organizer of the Ouagadougou meeting, who is also a member of the Liberian Leadership Conference, affirmed that LLC should provide leadership for Ouagadougou and all subsequent Liberian political conferences. Accordingly, the decisions of the Ouagadougou meeting shall be complimentary to the resolution of the LLC consultations of June 28-29, 2002.

"The Conference took note of the establishment of the Special War crimes Tribunal established by the United Nations for Sierra Leone to indict and bring to justice all those who bear the greatest responsibility for the war in Sierra Leone and the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the war.

"For the Government of Liberia, the Conference calls for the expansion of the current UN sanctions to include the freezing of assets of officials of Government and the ban on the exportation of logs from Liberia. The Conference also calls upon the United Nations to vigorously enforce the existing sanctions against the officials of Government, particularly the travel ban and the importation of weapons.

"Urges the Special UN War Crimes Tribunal for Sierra Leone to consider the accusation of Mr. Taylor’s involvement in the Sierra Leone civil war, with the view of having him indicted, so as to vindicate the integrity of international law and the dignity of the Liberian people."

We strongly believe that it is injudicious to make such statements in the Report, especially if BUILDING BRIDGES AND ENGENDERING TRUST AND CONFIDENCE BETWEEN AND AMONGST LIBERIAN PEOPLE ARE THE ULTIMATE AIM OF THE LLC!

Despite our being outside of Liberia, we owe it to ourselves and the people of Liberia to continue to be engaged in the search for peace, reconciliation, unity, trust and confidence among Liberians everywhere. That is why we are actively engross in Liberian civil society organizations and churches everywhere in the United States of America.

We work in close collaboration with the Inter-religious Council of Liberia because it is based at home and on the ground. We avoid making statements that will thwart their peace efforts. The Inter-religious Council of Liberia is better informed about the situation on the ground.

We therefore hope that our reaction to the Report will be accepted in good faith as our contribution to BUILDING BRIDGES, AND ENGENDERING TRUST AND CONFIDENCE BETWEEN POLITICAL PARTIES, CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS AND RELIGIOUS LEADERS in the search for lasting peace and reconciliation.

Bishop W. Nah Dixon

Bishop Ronald Joseph Diggs

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