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Listening: Liberia hosts ecumenical consultation on consolidating peace

1/24/2006
[Episcopal News Service]  Representatives from ecumenical and interfaith organizations in the Mano River Union countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone joined with ecumenical partners from the United States January 23-24, at a consultation in Monrovia, Liberia, titled "Consolidating Peace in West Africa: A Mano River Case Study."

Rita Redfield, a former Executive Council and Episcopal Relief and Development board member from the Diocese of Maine, is representing the Episcopal Church at the consultation.

"It is important for the Episcopal Church to have a presence at this consultation as part of our solidarity with churches and ecumenical partners in the region," Margaret Larom, director of Anglican and Global Relations, said. "The main thing is to go and listen and to bring back a deeper understanding of the situation they face in this region where the destabilizing forces of violence and hatred have brought so much pain."

The consultation is sponsored by the Continuing Committee on Common Witness (CCCW) -- an ecumenical partnership of Church World Service (CWS) and the U.S. Catholic Mission Association (USCMA) -- in collaboration with the Liberian Council of Churches and other partners in West Africa.

Although the CCCW periodically sponsors ecumenical consultations "on a theme of topical interest to persons involved in Christian mission, ministry and witness," a letter of invitation from CWS explained that this is the first such meeting to be held abroad "in partnership with and in support of ... international ecumenical partners."

The Episcopal Church of Liberia (ECL) and the U.S.-based Episcopal Church have a long history of mutual involvement, which formally began in 1836 with the sending of missionaries. Prior to 1980, ECL was one of the Episcopal Church's overseas dioceses. Both churches have since remained in Covenant because of their historic 170-year relationship.

In May 2005, a delegation that included Kurt Barnes, Episcopal Church treasurer and chief financial officer, Dennis Sullivan, president of the Church Pension Group, and colleagues, visited Liberia to help the church establish a pension plan to secure the future of its clergy and employees.

Liberia's first female president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, was sworn into office January 16 with a promise to confront and fight corruption "which has become a canker worm in Liberia." Johnson-Sirleaf succeeds Gyude Bryant, who led the interim government of Liberia for two years.