Catholics, Baptists Oppose Christian State

By Morrison O.G. Sayon

As the debate to Christianize Liberia heats up in the country, many citizens including some Christians and Church leaders have vehemently opposed the idea of making Liberia a Christian nation.   Many of those who have spoken against the Christianization of Liberia described same as a recipe for confusion and conflict. Many callers on local radio stations in Monrovia took exception to Christianizing Liberia at this time when the people are living in peace and unity.

Catholic Archbishop Lewis Zeigler has also opposed Liberia returning to Christian state as being insinuated in many quarters. Speaking on a local radio program on Monday, Archbishop Zeigler said although he is a Christian, he is against the country returning to Christianity, which according to him the proposition is a recipe for confusion.

Archbishop Zeigler added that the country and its citizens have come a long way and as such, the decision will not be well for the democratic process of the country. He said Liberia should remain as it is to accommodate every individual.

Also, a Baptist Prelate has registered his strong opposition to the Christianization of Liberia. Rev. Solomon Juah said even Jesus Himself was opposed to such idea when he was arrested and questioned whether He was the king of the Jews. Rev. Juah said the answer given by Jesus clearly indicates that he was vehemently opposed to religious state.

“Jesus said His kingdom was not that of the world,” said Rev. Juah. He furthered that if Liberia is declared as a Christian nation, the country will be governed by the Holy Bible meaning that Liberians will be made to follow all the rules of Christianity. Rev. Juah argued that the Preamble of the 1847 Constitution does not say that Liberia was founded on Christian principles.

In a recent interview, an official of the Ministry of Public Works, Jesefu Morris Keita described the motives of those wanting to Christianize Liberia at the detriment of other religions as a recipe for conflict and disunity.

He warned that those in favor of such proposition should rethink the decision as posterity will judge them for proffering such anti-democratic evil in the country. Keita called on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to nullify the proposition in that Liberia has suffered prolonged years of civil conflict.

A caller identified as Morris George for his part, said it is not appropriate at this time to allow a group of people engage in vices that have the propensity to create confusion in the country. He said any attempt to make Liberia a Christian nation will be counterproductive to the peace and stability Liberians are presently enjoying.

A Webmaster at a local media house in Monrovia, Varney K. Sirleaf wondered what benefits Liberia would accrue if the country is declared a Christian state. He said the idea of Christian nation is only intended to create chaos and division amongst Liberians who have co-existed peacefully for many years.

A Liberian journalist, Edwin Wandah for his part, argued that making Liberia a Christian nation is a recipe for confusion and as such the idea must not be accepted by any well-meaning Liberian.

Delegates at the recent Gbarnga Constitutional Review Conference overwhelmingly voted on a proposition to make Liberia a Christian state. The Muslim delegates did not vote because, according to them, the proposition doesn’t promote religious freedom guaranteed in the Constitution which currently upholds a secular state.

The outcome of the Gbarnga Constitution Review process will be submitted to President Sirleaf for perusal and in turn send it to the National Legislature to debate the issues and prepare it for a national referendum.

Meanwhile, the Baptist Prelates and Church members with the blessing of the Liberia Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention (LBMEC) have condemned turning Liberia into a “Christian Nation” as proposed at the just-ended Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) held in Gbarnga, Bong County.

The LBMEC, under the leadership of Rev/Dr. Olu Q. Menjay, also serving as vice president and chair of the Commission on Human Rights Advocacy of the Baptist World Alliance, said it does not support a proposal to make Liberia a “Christian Nation.”

As an oldest Christian denomination in the country, LBMEC said it is cognizant of its baptistic history and core commitment as a Christian denomination, which does not discriminate.

“There is no blemish on our escutcheon for the practice of religious persecution, since the act is the unfair treatment of a person or group of people because of religious beliefs and practice. Religious persecution can take the form of physical punishment or forms of discrimination,” a statement issued by the Baptist and signed by Dr. Menjay stated

Therefore, the Baptist are of the views that to make Liberia a “Christian Nation is discriminatory and is not part of our baptistic Christian principle.”

Accordingly, the Baptist said, they have persistently refused to bend their own necks under the yoke of suppression, and we have meticulously withheld their hand and heart from opposing yokes placed upon others.

“We do not support any legislated domination of any group or individual, because we strongly are driven by the words of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 7:12 to “treat others as you want them to treat you. This is what the Law and the Prophets are all about.”

“We do not support making Liberia a “Christian Nation,” the Baptist statement emphasized.

Baptist, the statement said, have never approved an ordinance inflicting a civic disability on any human person or group because of religious practice and belief.

According to the statement, the Baptist reaffirms the right of every human being in Liberia to exercise freedom in matters of faith and conscience from all compulsion or intimidation by any government authority.

Therefore, Liberia Baptists say they do not have room for sectarian arrogance within the country’s diverse Christian persuasions and in a progressively more pluralistic world where Liberia is for all persons regardless of faith persuasion or affiliation.

“A nerve center of our denominational sensibility as Christian called Baptist is not merely religious toleration, but religious liberty, not merely sufferance, but freedom not for us, but all people. As such, we affirm our stance against making Liberia a Christian Nation.”

Meanwhile, the Baptist said they have join the likes of several other Baptists including John Symth, Thomas Helwys, Roger Williams, John Clarke, and Ann Hasseltine Judson, in the words of another Baptist minister, Martin Luther King, that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

The Liberia Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention was founded in 1880 to bring Baptist churches together for fellowship, cooperation and the development of programs in Christian education and evangelism. The LBMEC, comprising of churches, educational institutions and auxiliaries, recognized during its inception that as Baptists, there was great virtue in the principle of “Strength in Unity.” The Convention has expanded its program goals to include the development of member churches capabilities for self-sustainability, self-governing and self-propagating. The Convention consists of over 290 churches and 90,000 members. We are the connection between churches in Liberia and around the world.

The Convention’s objective is to promote the principles and purpose of the Christian faith and witness, and the Baptist denomination, and in particular for the extension of the Kingdom of God in Liberia and throughout the world.