ELCA Reaffirms Support for Liberia
11/18/1996 12:00:00 AM
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America expressed again its solidarity with the people and churches of Liberia through an action taken by the ELCA Church Council at its meeting here Nov. 8-11. The church's Division for Global Mission and two ELCA synods requested action on Liberia.
The council voted to "reaffirm and amplify the still-relevant call" of the ELCA in 1991 for its members to "learn about and respond to the need of the people in Liberia through prayer, financial support through the ELCA World Hunger Appeal and through advocacy."
Liberia's continuing civil strife has resulted in the death of more than 150,000 of its citizens and the displacement of more than half its population of 2 million, the council was informed.
The ELCA Division for Global Mission resolution noted that in July the Rev. Sumoward Harris, bishop of the Lutheran Church in Liberia, appealed to the ELCA for attention and advocacy with the U.S. government in support of a sustainable peace in Liberia.
Dennis W. Frado, director of the ELCA's Office for World Community, said in an interview, "This says to our members that they can be more vocal with their representatives, particularly in this new Congress, asking them to give greater attention to the situation in Liberia, the need for material assistance and support for the peacemaking forces."
Frado said, "The resolution recalls the historic relationship between the United States and Liberia, which means that the U.S. should be doing more to help Liberians resolve the underlying causes of conflict in their own country."
The council's action called for a review of immigration laws and expansion of resettlement programs in the United States that would reunite families. It asks the U.S. government to grant asylum to Liberians fleeing their country.
ELCA members, congregations and agencies "have reached out with care and compassion to Liberian refugees in this country," the action says. They are "advocating with the U.S. government on behalf of refugees as they seek to assist or be reunited with their families still in refugee camps."
The United Nations should support peace in Liberia, "including substantial resources in support of the regional peacekeeping force," the action says. It asks the United Nations to "apply diplomatic pressure on the faction leaders in Liberia for complete disarmament."
The council expressed appreciation and support for Lutheran agencies worldwide that work to alleviate suffering and to promote sustainable development in Liberia.
The council encouraged "a public education and advocacy strategy on Liberia" under development by churchwide units of the ELCA, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and Lutheran World Relief, together with ecumenical partners.
Frado said, "We need to look more closely at the economic incentives that are allowing the factions in Liberia to purchase arms and perpetuate violence. We need to look at who is involved in shipping and purchasing Liberia's natural resources -- wood and precious metals -- commandeered by the factions who trade them for hard currency and arms."
In another action related to Africa the council affirmed the concerns of the Board of the ELCA's Division for Global Mission about the situation in the Great Lakes region around Eastern Zaire. The resolution called on members and congregations of the ELCA to respond to the crisis there with prayer and gifts to the ELCA World Hunger Appeal.
The council noted with thanks the "untiring work and commitment of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania and other partners to meet the human needs coming out of civil strife in the region."
For information contact: Ann Hafften, Dir., ELCA News Service,
(312) 380-2958 or AHAFFTEN@ELCA.ORG; Frank Imhoff, Assoc. Dir.,
(312) 380-2955 or FRANKI@ELCA.ORG