The Words of the Arkoi Family
Nimba County Peace Council Launched in Liberia
July 31, 2006
Ganta City, Liberia
Under the guidance of the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) in Liberia and the watchful eye of persons from all sections of Liberian society, Ganta City in Nimba County became the site of the first county-level Peace Council in Liberia. It met on July 31, 2006 with nearly 800 persons in attendance. Peace Councils are envisioned for each of Liberia’s 15 counties.
After Christian and Muslim prayers and a welcome from Mayor Nohn Tensonnohn, Dr. D. Evelyn S. Kandakai, President of the National Peace Council of Liberia, described peace councils as a mechanism for Ambassadors for Peace to assist in carrying out the mission of the Universal Peace Federation. She outlined Liberia’s peace-building activities, including peacekeepers, peace concerts, rallies, sports tournaments, and lecture series. She called Ganta a bustling and blooming crossroads that will help disseminate this peace plan across the land.
Ambassador Mary N. Brownell, Chair of UPF-Liberia, thanked all who had made this day possible. Referring to the theme, Reconciliation, Peace and Family Renewal, she said, "We are promoting understanding and tolerance among us despite the differences of religious beliefs, culture and dialects or language. The Peace Councils will foster peace, good governance, peace education and reconciliation. Through these councils we are confident that we can promote better human understanding and development at all levels of Liberian society, government officials and traditional leaders and elders. We want to find the root causes of existing conflicts and how to minimize them. We hope to realize the importance of family life and the impact of family values on the upbringing of our children."
She talked about the importance of living for the sake of others: "The Peace Council must awaken in us our roles as peace advocates and our brothers’ keepers. To enjoy the peace we crave, we must purge our hearts of jealousy, envy, hatred, prejudice, covetousness, and other negative issues and replace them with love, compassion, sympathy, hard work and forgiveness."
During a break, four International Peace Volunteers from Japan sang "Open Your Heart" in Japanese. At another break, Glorious Melody, a Christian youth group, sang "Lord, This Is My Prayer."
Lt. Col. Abdul Hoque, the Commander of the Bangladesh Contingent, spoke on behalf of the head of the United Nations Mission in Liberia. With two holy books in hand, he declared: "Peace in Nimba means peace in Liberia; peace in Liberia means peace in West Africa; peace in West Africa means peace in Africa, and peace in Africa means peace in the whole world. We are all children of Adam and Eve. Only our colors are different but we have the same blood. Both the Holy Bible and Holy Qur’an have commandments to love God and to love each other, so why do we fight each other?"
Amb. Gerald Coleman, Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee of Liberia, expressed the hope that UPF will continue its peace-building initiatives long after the three-year term of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee ends. He asked the audience to acknowledge that Liberia has entered a new period in which people recognize their common values.
Hon. Robert S. Karmei, Superintendent of Nimba County, expressed happiness that his city had been selected "because all tribal groups are represented in Ganta, a city with an international community, and because Ganta is an industrial town. Those who came to Ganta after 2003 came on their own, and the level of development so far is their own doing. We have always lived in peace, and welcomed people to live here. War brought difficulties between the people of Nimba. Now we have all put on our peace hats; we have accepted each other and we are ready to enter negotiations so that we may live in peace and harmony."
Rev. Eiji Tokuno, UPF Director for Africa, noted that he has been to 25 other African countries, and in each one he feels the burden of peace. He quoted the founder of UPF, Rev. Sun Myung Moon, stating that the ultimate desire of all religions is peace. He then read the Founder’s Message, "God’s Model Ideal Family and Nation, and the Peace Kingdom" being delivered in 180 nations.
The guest speaker, Amb. M. Nathaniel Barnes, was a presidential candidate in recent elections and is currently the nation's ambassador to the United Nations. Amb. Barnes cautioned the audience that he was going to examine some sacred truths. He observed that truth may hurt, but "the truth that hurts can be the truth that heals."
He stated that Liberia was born out of crises -- inhumane acts of slavery, clash of cultures and values, tribalism and inter-ethnic conflict -- that led to a defective foundation of lies, deceit, injustice, corruption and ineffectiveness. "This mother of all crises has been simmering for generations in all aspects of our national life; and exploded with a vengeance unimaginable!" he noted. "The civil war was a national catharsis. Those who exploited the chaos for their personal gains brought national shame, global isolation and a threat to Liberia’s sovereignty. And as a result, people ask if anything good can come out of Liberia."
"As a matter of fact, many good things can and will come out of Liberia," he declared. After referring to the massive loss of life, destruction of property, loss of infrastructure, displacement of millions of people, disease and epidemics, illiteracy, violent youths and countless other ills, he declared that "everything is broken except our spirit," and called for rebuilding the nation on the foundation of truth, trust, freedom, justice, transparency, equality, and faith. He concluded: "An enduring peace must originate from deep within our individual selves and permeate families, clans, chiefdoms, and throughout Liberia. Then, all shall gather abundant harvest of peace, stability, reconciliation, justice, freedom and a bountiful future."
A local youth group entertained the audience with a drama depicting a land dispute. Young people began to fight among themselves, and elders came to settle the dispute saying that the land will survive all the dwellers and a community is bound together by important factors other than usage of land.
Seventeen members were inducted into the Peace Council (five in absentia). Certificates were awarded to 25 Ambassadors for Peace.
The Concerned Women of Gompa (Ganta) sang in local dialects as they danced majestically. They gave credit to Madam Brownell’s Liberia Women’s Initiative for encouraging them to come together. The hymn "Amazing Grace" was sung, followed by a toast and prayers for blessing in marriage. Rev. Tokuno, assisted by his wife Hisae, read the vows of fidelity, loyalty and living for the sake of others.
The ethnic groups from Nimba County confirmed their commitment to the peace process. Rev. Thomas G. Gweh spoke for the Gios, Rev. Nya Gami Zuagele for the Mano, Mr. Mohammed B. Keita for the Mandingo, and Mr. Joe Wallace for the Krahns. Rev. Augustine S. Arkoi, Secretary General of UPF-Liberia, thanked everyone for attending
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