1998 NCC News Archives
NCC Africa Committee's Mission Asks Support
For Sierra Leone's "Vibrant, Steadfast Church Community"
October 24, 1998, NEW YORK -- A mission of the National Council of Churches (NCC) Africa Committee to Sierra Leone called for a redoubling of support for the "vibrant, steadfast church community" which has resisted a nine-month reign of terror and is working to recover from the violence even as conditions in the country remain troubled.
Six representatives of the Africa Committee of the NCC traveled to Sierra Leone, October 6-12, to visit the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone and to express solidarity of North American churches with the suffering people and churches of Sierra Leone and to understand more fully their struggle.
The mission was undertaken in response to an invitation extended by Mr. Alimamy Koroma, the General Secretary of the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone during his last visit to the NCC, in November 1997. It was led by Willis Logan, Director of the Africa Office of the NCC. The other participants were:
The participants in the mission heard accounts of churches losing hundreds of members who were killed in rebel instigated riots or displaced by rebel raids and now living in camps within Sierra Leone or among the over 400,000 refugees in Guinea and Liberia. Many clergy are missing or have been killed.
The mission also saw damaged or destroyed schools and medical facilities and came to understand the key role that the churches play in the provision of education and health care throughout Sierra Leone.
The mission visited three centers housing nearly 24,000 uprooted people. At the Waterloo refugee camp about 20 miles from Freetown, the participants heard personal stories of brutality and tragedy from the war which poignantly underscored the horror of Sierra Leones civil strife.
These and other stories provided dramatic testimony to the deep pain and suffering the churches are now called upon to heal. The Council of Churches - a coalition of 18 Protestant denominations throughout Sierra Leone - has been a major force in coordinating the rebuilding and peacemaking efforts of the church community.
Participants in the mission shared in several discussions with church leaders about their role in peacemaking and national recovery. In the press statement they issued, they said "a major finding of the mission is that CCSL and its member churches should be affirmed in their role as peacemakers and community builders" and they identified "a need for substantial grassroots involvement both in reconstruction and rehabilitation," stressing that "many church leaders emphasized that unless resources provided by the international community were adequate to the task and accessible to them directly, their response would be limited." The mission participants concluded their visit by worshipping in several local congregations.
In leaving Sierra Leone, the mission learned of new rebel advances and atrocities in the Kambia district - a reminder that there is every urgency about securing the peace in Sierra Leone.
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