War Survivors in Liberia Need Opportunities “to tell their stories”: Catholic Entities

Some participants at the workshop organized by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Liberia (CABICOL) in collaboration with the German Bishops conference commission of Justice and Peace, and AGIAMONDO on the theme: "Dealing with the Past and ReconciliationLearning in the Light of Liberian Experience" in Monrovia. Credit: CABICOL

Catholic entities in the West African nation of Liberia are calling on the country’s government, religious leaders, and officials of civil society organizations to work towards creating fora for survivors of the Liberian civil war to share their experiences.

In their communiqué shared with ACI Africa Monday, April 24, representatives of the  Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Liberia (CABICOL), the Justice and Peace Commission of the Bishops’ Conference of Germany, and AGIAMONDO express their awareness of the fact that the experience of violent conflict in “recent decades has left deep wounds in Liberian society” and that silencing and marginalizing survivors of war can hinder “the healing process”.

“We encourage the State, faith-based and civic leaders to acknowledge a collective responsibility to provide safe and meaningful opportunities for victims and survivors to tell their stories, to support each other, and to advocate for their needs regarding the healing process,” they say.

In the statement following their five-day meeting that concluded April 21, representatives of the three Catholic entities who participated in the International Workshop on “Dealing with the Past and Reconciliation – Learning in the Light of the Liberian Experience” indicate that they had encountered “forgotten, abandoned, isolated and even fearful” survivors of the Liberian civil war.

A Solemn Memorial Mass was held on Friday, 21 April 2023 at Our Lady of Lebanon Catholic Church-St Joseph Parish Monrovia to conclude the workshop. Credit: CABICOL


The West African nation had civil wars from 1989 to 1997 and from 1999 to 2003.

“The victims’ fear is compounded where there is a lack of public acknowledgement of the suffering that has occurred and the lives that have been lost,” representatives of the Catholic entities in Liberia say in their communiqué that was signed by CABICOL President, Bishop Anthony Borwah, the Vice Managing Director of AGIAMONDO, Martin Vehrenberg, and Dr. Jorg Luer, the General Secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Bishops’ Conference of Germany.

They also say that it is important to listen to the stories of the perpetrators of violence as “those who have been responsible for acts of violence are also in need of healing.”

“It is important to create space to explore and understand these realities, while giving due priority to the suffering of victims and survivors and respecting the memory of those who have lost their lives,” say representatives of the Catholic entities.


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They add that while the stories of the perpetrators of violence are difficult to listen to, “they convey difficult but important messages about the complexity of violent conflict.”

The stories of the perpetrators of violence, the representatives of the three Catholic entities further say, “bring an important perspective on the cost of war.”

In their statement, they also pay tribute “to the courage of those who worked for peace at the height of war, at great personal risk and cost.” 

“Many of these people played critical roles in holding communities together at times of fear and threat. Their leadership brought light to very dark places. They too have experienced trauma and loss and need to be supported to find healing,” they say.



The representatives of the three Catholic entities continue, “We hope that political leaders will be open to learning from their experience and provide them with the space needed to carry out this work.”

They also underscore the need “to honor the memory” of those who died as a result of the civil war. 

“One concrete contribution we can make is to honour the memory of all those who lost their lives in the places where acts of violence occurred. In this way we bear witness to the dignity and worth of every human person,” say the representatives of CABICOL, AGIAMONDO and the Justice and Peace Commission of the Bishops’ Conference of Germany.

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.