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Demonstrate for Peace Or Pray for Peace?

By Wilfred M. Manyango, The Perspective (Smyrna, Georgia)
Opinion and Analysis, 6 September 2000

It seems that in Liberia the solution for dealing with national crisis, and especially the Christian solution, is to publicly demonstrate against the crisis, malign the opponents and show partisanship in favor of the government.

I have seen this once in 1990 during the incursion when religious groups demonstrated against the rebels. Now it has been learnt that a demonstration against the present crisis in Lofa and a show of support for the government has been planned by Rev. Adolphus During.

In as much as it is not wrong for a Christian to be involved in political activities, and they are to fulfill their duties to Caesar, they are called to be involved in something bigger than demonstrations. Let us look at the Bible and see how the people handled national crises.

When Israel was faced with a crisis, be it external or internal, they never resorted to demonstrations. They did one of two things; confessed and repented of the nation's sin that led to the crisis, and then called on God to help. Usually it was the former that was done. Scripture abounds with many instances. Joshua was told by God to get up and go remove the sin from their midst after Israel was defeated by Ai. Israel experienced victory after the sin was dealt with (Joshua 7:1-10, 24- 8:1-28). The book of Judges narrates a circle of how God dealt with Israel. They sinned, God sent people to attack them. They repented, God delivered them. In the New Testament, we are told to pray for our country and government so that peace will prevail (I Timothy 2:1-2). Nowhere do we see demonstrations. How then does this relate to Liberia? Is there something that we believers are missing?

Every country in the world is experiencing some form of crisis. It could be war, social, economic or moral. Whatever the crisis is, believers need to approach it in the same godly way. Christians need to realize that we serve a Sovereign God who is in control of the universe. We need to approach the crisis in a two-fold manner. First and foremost, before asking God to intervene and restore calm, we need to ask Him to show us where our leaders and we as a country have gone wrong. Usually the physical crisis is just the symptom of a spiritual or moral illness the country is having. If we seek the face of God, He will show us where we have gone wrong and we need to be bold in dealing with these areas. It could be that God allowed the crisis because there are certain issues in our country that need to be addressed or that we have turned away from God as a nation.

Instead of sugar coating the issues and trying to shift blames and demonstrate, or be politically correct, let us address the issues head on. True servants of God were not afraid to tell their leaders where they fell short. And for some, it cost them their lives. Jeremiah was threatened with death and thrown in prison because he spoke the truth and pointed the errors of the king and authorities (Jeremiah 26:1-9, 37:1-38:6). John the Baptist was thrown in prison and beheaded because he spoke against the immoral life of King Herod (Matthew 14:1-12).

What I am trying to get at is that the present situation in Liberia is more than just the unfortunate crisis in Lofa. Demonstration, heaping of praises, disassociations, etc. will not help. Our people are dying. Christians need to approach the present crisis spiritually. We need to halt and ask God to show us where as a nation we and our leaders have gone wrong. And I believe those who have been praying earnestly for Liberia know that a serious problem exists in Liberia. Instead of addressing the problems head on, we want to demonstrate and show solidarity and try to shift blame. We are always afraid to speak out against the true culprits. I am grateful for the few that have not kept silent. There is no need to sugar coat anything here. The Liberian society is stratified; the wealthy and influential and the poor and powerless. Look at Liberia today and you will see a lot of poor people who are suffering and I believe God is looking at them. As Christians we cannot gloss over the fact that corruption, partisanship, inequalities, murder, and other unfair practices exist in Liberia. Are we willing to tell the culprits that they are wrong, whether the government or rebels and that God will bring judgement on Liberia unless we desist? I am not saying by any means that the present crisis in Lofa is the result of sin, but it could be that the Lord wants to get our attention to the plight of His people so He allowed it to happen. Believers need to rise up and confess the sins of our country which include but are not limited to corruption, murder, inequalities, immorality, injustices, unfair practices, partiality, etc. and ask God to help us. These and other sins are prevalent in our society and the Bible tells us that God punishes sin. Anything short of speaking out and confessing our sins is a neglect of our role as lights in the world. Instead of demonstrating against the crisis in Lofa, let us realize that there are other internal crises that we need to address. Let us introspect the nation's health, confess and repent of our sins before we call on God. Anything short of this is hypocritical and political pandering.

We also have a God given responsibility to pray for our country and leaders, whether we like them or not. We are to pray that God will give them the wisdom they need to lead us fairly and equally. If God decides to judge the nation because of their acts, we are affected.

We were all affected by the 1980 and '89 crises. It is not our responsibility to seek their removal by force, but God in His own time will. God is the one who exalts and humbles. In as much as we are to respect them, let us also speak out constructively against the immoral practices that exists as the prophets of old did.

As for those who are rebelling against the God ordained Government (Romans 13:1-7), God in His sovereignty knows why. We are never called to call curses upon them or malign them. We are to pray for them that God will soften their hearts to see that they are causing suffering on their people and that they will lay down their arms and reconcile. No one knows the will of God and because we do not, let us pray that the Lord's will be done. Let the Lord protect the innocent people that are being distressed and help the nation. I think this is better than demonstrations and attacks against the government or rebels.

As Christians, God called us to show partisanship to only one person, Him alone. On earth, our responsibility is to be witnesses for the kingdom of God and doing this we are also to pray for our country and its leaders and speak out against injustices and inequalities in the society. We are to stand in the gap for our nation when faced with a crisis and plead for God's help instead of demonstrating for one group and maligning the other and calling for their destruction. Let us realize that we are to be life givers as Christ was (John 10:10) and not death pronouncers. My appeal to the ordinary believer is please do not be led astray by those religious leaders who want to curry political favor thereby enticing you to demonstrate. Liberia is faced with a lot of crisis and as we have all seen, the coup of 1980 and the '89 invasion did not solve them so neither can this incursion help. Neither will a public demonstration help solve anything. We need to seek the face of God and repent as a nation for the injustices and inequalities that are so prevalent in our societies.

We need to repent of the immorality, partiality, murder, stratification of our society, and ask God to heal our land. This has been going on for long and if we do not repent, we are long way from experiencing a stable Liberia. The government needs to face the fact that Liberia is experiencing a crisis not just the Lofa incursion and it needs to be willing to do a radical surgery to address the issues.

Only a sick person needs a doctor. And until our Leaders can realize that Liberia is sick and needs help from God, problems will continue to persist. Our role in this as believers is to call on the Lord to intervene and at the same time address the ills in the society. Demonstrating for peace is not the biblical way to address a spiritual issue. As Christians, we are called to pray and intercede for our nation. And until we come to the realization of this truth and stop political pandering, we are far from experiencing God's healing. God bless Liberia and heal the land.