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Liberia should not be a Christian State

12 May 2016 at 04:05 | 4580 views


By Dagbayonoh Kiah Nyanfore ll, Monrovia, Liberia.

One of the current debates in Liberia is Proposition 24, a proposal from the Constitution Review Committee to the legislature to make Liberia a Christian State. If the legislature approves it, the proposition would be put in a referendum for public voting.

Proponents of Proposition 24 argue that Liberia was originally a Christian country but later she abandoned this religious belief in favor of a secular state; that Liberia’s present condition or problems are primarily results of this abandonment and thus once we return to being a Christian state, our problems would be solved.

I disagree with Proposition 24 and therefore say no to the proposal for the following three reasons:

One: Liberia was never and is not a Christian country; two, the underlining principle or notion of the proposition is faulty or erroneous and three, Proposition 24 is divisive.

Liberia, as a country, came into being through the American Colonization Society, which sponsored, transported and settled American Black ex-slaves to Africa in the early 1800s.

The Society’s goal was for the former slaves to Christianize and civilize the native Africans. In the US, the slaves were at the periphery of the American/Western culture. Over 90% of the settlers were illiterate; yet they felt superior over the native majority upon landing in 1822 on the soil now called Liberia.

Although the settlers originally named Monrovia “Christopolis”, city of Christ, and although the declaration of independence was made in a church in 1847, Liberia was never a Christian nation.

There were many reasons religion was not inscribed in the constitution. One important reason was that the constitution writer, Simon Greenleaf, a white American and Harvard University law professor, was cognizant of the successful opposition to religious declaration in the American constitution.

Another reason was the belief in the separation of the state and religion and in the neutrality of the government regarding religion because the framers of the American constitution “wanted to insure that no one sect could ever seize control of the government and start a theocracy”. Therefore, Greenleaf did not subscribe Liberia to a particular religion. Liberia, whose constitution was patterned after that of America, was therefore made a secular state.

Despite efforts to inject religious considerations into Liberia’s 1847 constitution, the Liberian people did not amend the constitution for a religious preference. The new constitution of 1986 after the 1980 revolution did not make Liberia a Christian state either. Note that majority of the Liberian population is neither Christian nor Muslim, but subscribe to an African religion with a belief in a universal God. Only in the urban areas of Liberia do you have people who are mostly Christians. Christianity and Islam were foreign religions to Africa.

The belief that current the problems of Liberia are due mostly to the secular state of the country is faulty. Liberian problems started before the formation of the nation. The country was conceived with the notion that African people were inferior and that the settler minority must rule and control them.

Early leaders made no effort to incorporate the African majority into the new nation until the early 1900s, more than 60 years after independence. And it was only in 1946, that the Liberian natives or indigenous people were granted the right to vote in their own land. Subsequent periods were marked by mismanagement, corruption, oppression, marginalization and the absence of justice.

Today, Liberia is among the top five corrupt and poorest countries in the world. Making Liberia a Christian nation would therefore not change that, and would not improve the situation.

Proposition 24 would further bring disunity to the country. It would separate us from our Muslim brothers and sisters and could bring about discrimination. As a secular nation, we have lived together as one. We should stay that way!

I am a baptized Pentecostal; I am a Christian and have been my entire life. My father was a Methodist minister. His father, my grandfather and namesake, Prince Dagbayonoh Kiah Nyanfore, was also a Methodist minister. But I do not think it would be fair and right for my Christian faith and longstanding religious background to be imposed on the nation and make another group of a different religion second class citizens. If you are a Muslim would you like such possible separation and marginalization? Certainly you wouldn’t!

If proponents succeed with Proposition 24, what’s next? They could propose later that minority religious groups leave the country. This sometimes can happen when a nation blames its domestic problems on a defenseless minority, which it considers foreign.

The Liberian Council of Churches recently expressed non-support to Proposition 24, because the proposition is not right. Although as Christians and a power group the proposition would benefit their faith, the Council did the right thing. Jesus spoke against wrong and the intention to do wrong. Additionally, Christianity is by doing good, following the teachings of Jesus and not creating division or conditions to suppress the vulnerable.

In summation, because Monrovia was first named the City of Christ and because the declaration of independence was signed in a church, it did not mean and did not make Liberia a Christian country.

Christianizing Liberia constitutionally would not solve our problems. Our problems would be solved primarily by having good leadership. Moreover, Christianization of Liberia would divide us further, promote religious intolerance and weaken our fragile unity as one people.