October 2, 2003
The Honorable Edward R. Royce
House International Relations Subcommittee on Africa
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Royce:
We are grateful that you have convened todayâs hearing on Liberia, and hope that your committee will recommend a stronger supporting U.S. role in the international response to the Liberian crisis. We have twice written President Bush and to Senator John Warner to express concern about the circumstances on the ground in Liberia. This week, we reacted with great dismay upon the news that the U.S. has recalled it small contingency of Marines before an effective UN peacekeeping force was in place in Liberia. On behalf of the Episcopal Church, and our worldwide Anglican Communion, we urge Congress to support a sustained U.S. commitment in an international peacekeeping mission. The people of Liberia have suffered at the hands of government and rebel forces, with many having paid with their lives. The seriousness of the situation in Liberia requires intervention if peace and stability are to be restored.
The recent round of violence has compelled members of the international community, including the United States, to assess our respective roles and commitments to protection of the citizens of Liberia. It is the assessment of the Anglican Communion that much is at stake. The departure of Liberian President Charles Taylor, who has been tied to conflicts in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Cote DâIvoire, and to illegal arms transfers in exchange for illegally traded diamonds, has provided an opening to build a strong new civil society and government in Liberia. The failure of the international community to take decisive and swift action or to provide a sustained supporting role leaves Liberia largely unprotected. It is not unrealistic to fear that this conflict could destabilize the entire region, and risks undoing a hard-won and fragile peace in neighboring countries.
The leadership of the Anglican Communion is pressing the UN and their respective governments to protect Liberia. The example set by our collective investment in Sierra Leone leaves us hopeful that we can help the Liberian people to create a similar atmosphere in their own country, that would permit civil society and stable institutions, such as the Episcopal Church, to thrive. Because of that historic peacekeeping operation, Sierra Leone has managed to emerge and create a workable government and security for its people.
Our church partners in Liberia have long struggled in the absence of an operational government. Our colleagues at Cuttington College, with the Bishop of Liberia and other Episcopal leaders in Liberia call for a U.S. intervention to restore order and security. As you know, the U.S. and Liberia have a historic relationship. We in the Episcopal Church have one with the Church in Liberia as well. The Episcopal Church in Liberia, established in 1835, has a long mission history, with a huge investment of personnel and funding over nearly 170 years. Many schools and hospitals were founded, serving thousands of people, decade after decade, until the 1990s when chaos overtook the country.
Even now, when nearly all aid organizations have fled the country, dedicated church workers remain in Liberia struggling to keep schools open, to give children a chance. Our institutions have been pillaged by rebel troops and forces loyal to President Taylor. The staff of Cuttington College, founded by the Episcopal Church more than 100 years ago, has heroically kept classes operating for more than 500 students, even when they had to evacuate from Suacoco to Monrovia twice in the last year due to the fighting in their area. Because of our strong partnership the Episcopal Church, USA has been and remains committed to keeping Cuttington funded and operational through all crises. Over one-third of civil servants are graduates of Cuttington College, and its continued operation is critical to training the future leaders of Liberia.
One graduate of Cuttington in particular is Charles Guyde Bryant, the new interim leader of the Liberian government. Mr. Bryant is a proven leader within the Episcopal Church in Liberia; he serves as chairman of the board of trustees of the Church. He has also proven his commitment to Liberia by keeping his business operating in Liberia during the most intense period of the fighting. He remains resolute in seeking a lasting peaceful solution. Charles Guyde Bryant exemplifies the our Episcopal commitment to remain focused on the welfare of Liberians and the future of their country.
Mr. Chairman, our church is reaching out to support our church partners in Liberia, through mission support, the funding of higher education programs to train clergy, civil society and government leaders, and through the relief efforts provided by U.S. Episcopalians though Episcopal Relief and Development. The church now calls on Congress and the U.S. to support a sustained U.S. participation in Liberia so that the needs of the people of Liberia and the region can be addressed. Our nationâs support can help to guarantee security for the people of Liberia, and offer hope to the Liberian people that they may create a new government built on national unity.
On behalf of the Episcopal Church in Liberia and the Anglican Communion, we express gratitude for your attention in this matter.
Maureen T. Shea
Director of Government Relations
The Episcopal Church, USA
Jere Myrick Skipper
International Policy Analyst
The Episcopal Church, USA