Liberian church leaders warn of military and humanitarian crisis

April 16, 2003

Liberian church leaders are pleading for help from the international community as the nation faces a worsening military and humanitarian crisis provoked by renewed intensive fighting in its 13-year-old civil war that is displacing thousands of people every week.

'The world must not watch the death of the rest of us,' said the Rev. Kortu Brown, director of Concerned Christian Community, a faith-based humanitarian service organization. 'We need immediate food aid to avert any starvation that may result from thousands of people running from fighting.'

'The situation is deplorable and pathetic,' added Benjamin Dorme Lartey, general secretary of the Liberian Council of Churches, 'and there is urgent need to respond to the people, particularly the women and children and the elderly.'

Church World Service (CWS), the relief and development agency of the National Council of Churches, has called for a firm date for peace talks, scheduled for Mali in mid-April but postponed, and greater engagement of the U.S. government--especially a role of intervention and support for international participation in elections. CWS is airlifting blankets, health kits and food to help the Liberians meet some of the immediate needs in camps that provide temporary shelter.

CWS is raising funds to support two special outreach programs for women refugees and returnees who have been victims of rape and other abuse, as well as a YMCA leadership training program for 1,600 displaced children and youth.

The Liberian Council of Churches 'is gravely concerned at the escalation of the fighting and the formation of new fighting groups which will only bring more hardship to the already suffering people of Liberia,' the council said in an April 9 statement. The council is also worried about the delays in the peace talks.