Christianizing Liberia: What Are The Benefits?

By Morrison O.G. Sayon 231-886591509/775107709

As a religious person, I’m very much interested in joining this very important debate especially as it relates to the interest of our country. I believe that every Liberian has a stake in determining the fate of the country when it comes to the issue of national concern or anything that has the propensity to derail our hard-earned peace following years of civil upheaval that devastated every fabric of our society.

It is against this backdrop that I’m writing this article as a means of contributing my own quota to this latest development.

Recently, at the Constitutional Reform Committee (CRC) Verification Conference in Gbarnga, Bong County, it was reported that delegates who participated in the just-ended conference unanimously voted to Christianize Liberia. (Make Liberia a Christian State). One of the arguments that has been around for a very long time on this topic is that Liberia was built on Christian Principles and as such, Liberia is indeed a Christian nation.

On the other hand the organic law of the land that is the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia Article 14 among other things states that “All persons who in the practice of their religion, conduct themselves peaceable, not obstructing others and conforming to the standards set herein, shall be entitled to the protection of the law. No religion denomination or sect shall have any exclusive privilege or preference over any other; but all shall be treated alike….”

Reading the minds of the framers of the Constitution, I personally believe that the insertion of this particular clause in the Constitution was mainly intended to promote religious tolerance, to promote peace and tranquility and religious harmony among the inhabitants of Liberia. Since the Constitution was crafted with this clause; let me say before the coming into being of the Constitution, we lived in peace and harmony with our Muslim brothers and sisters and other religious groups except for some isolated cases in recent times.

Definition Of State religion:

Research has shown that a state religion (also called an established religion, state church, established church, or official religion) is a religious body or creed officially endorsed by the state. A state with an official religion, while not secular, is not necessarily a theocracy.

The term state church is associated with Christianity; historically the state church of the Roman Empire is sometimes used to denote a specific modern national branch of Christianity. Closely related to state churches are what sociologists call ecclesiae, though the two are slightly different.

State religions are official or government-sanctioned establishments of a religion, but neither does the state need be under the control of the church (as in a theocracy), nor is the state-sanctioned church necessarily under the control of the state.

The institution of state-sponsored religious cults is ancient, reaching into the Ancient Near East and prehistory. The relation of religious cult and the state was discussed by Varro, under the term of theologiacivilis (“civic theology”). The first state-sponsored Christian church was the Armenian Apostolic Church, established in 301 AD.

Types of state religion

The degree and nature of state backing for denomination or creed designated as a state religion can vary. It can range from mere endorsement (with or without financial support) with freedom for other faiths to practice, to prohibiting any competing religious body from operating and to persecuting the followers of other sects.

On the other hand, many Muslim-majority countries have constitutionally established Islam, or a specific form of it, as a state religion. Proselytism on behalf of other religions is often illegal.

With this clear understanding of what is state religion, let me now ask those who are pressing for the Christianization of Liberia: Are we pressing for mere endorsement of the Liberian Government or according to our definition, are we saying that we will prohibit any competing religious body from operating and to persecuting the followers of other sects? I know that is not the intention of our God-fearing people. If not, then, what do we really want?

Let me ask again: Was Liberia a Christian State at the very beginning of its formation or was the nation built on Christian principles?

For me, my understanding is that those who founded the country came to relocate or resettle free slaves many of whom were taken from Africa and elsewhere. Secondly, we are told in our history that these people came to introduce Christianity in West Africa. Don’t forget that our forefathers who they met here were already practicing religious activities before the coming of the Whiteman or the settlers.They were praying to the mountains, rivers, trees with the conviction that there was a deity present in that river, tree or the mountains they were worshiping and that was the Traditional African Religion.Some of our forefathers who they met here were also practicing the Islamic Religion and so forth.

So, if all of these facts are taken into consideration, then, why do we want to Christianize Liberia this time; what benefits does Liberia stand to accrue?

My argument is not in any way intended to defeat what the majority of the Liberian people want but I’m interested in getting a clear understanding of why we are pushing for the Christianization of Liberia. What are we (Christians) losing, or what we really want and not getting because Liberia is a secular state?

As Liberians, no matter your religious affiliation, you have co-existed for many years and have been accepting one another over the years therefore, let us not introduce anything that will create disunity amongst us. I’m strongly convinced that this proposition to make Liberia a Christian State at the detriment of other religions is a recipe for conflict and disunity among our people. We are not losing anything as Christians; we have all the rights, all the holidays, and we dominate all religious activities in the country, so, what do we still want Liberia to be a Christian State anyhow?

Those who are going to partake in the National Referendum should rethink their decision by defeating this proposition because already we are hearing threats from other religious groups. We have absolutely nothing to gain if Liberia becomes a Christian state. Nothing at all! Let somebody convince me of the benefits we will get if we accept this proposition.

Let us not allow ourselves to engage in vices that have the propensity to create unnecessary confusion in the country to the detriment of other peace-loving people.

We are not prepared for any chaotic situation in our country again. Some of us have nowhere to run with our children. That is why I’m appealing and cautioning my fellow Christians to let sleeping dog lies for the sake of peace and religious tolerance.