CHARLOTTE, N.C. (ABP) – A Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America delegation just back from two weeks conducting training in conflict transformation and non-violence with Liberian pastors and leaders is calling on Christians everywhere to join in prayer and fasting for upcoming national elections.
Evelyn Hanneman, operations coordinator for the BPFNA, said tensions are running high as 16 candidates vie for the presidency in Liberia’s Oct. 11 election. It will be just the second national election since a 2003 peace treaty ended 14 years of civil war. One candidate has threatened violence if he loses.
Along with former American Baptist missionaries Virgil and Lynn Nelson, Hanneman met with leaders of the Liberian Council of Churches and Baptist Convention of Liberia to discuss concerns about the possibility of violence before, during or after the October elections. Through the training process, she reported, participants came up with a non-violence campaign being picked up by the Liberian Council of Churches.
Hanneman said the campaign has several parts, including:
–Pledge of nonviolence. Liberians are being urged to pledge: "I will not commit acts of violence before, during and after the election." As a sign of taking the pledge, they will wear a white wristband or white cloth pinned to their shirt.
–Days of prayers and fasting leading up to the elections. The Liberian Council of Churches is working with the Muslim community on this project. Muslims will pray and fast for peace Oct. 5-7. Christians will do the same Oct. 9-10.
–Prayer vigils outside polling sites. Local churches are urged to have people stand vigil outside polling sites with a sign saying "praying for peace" and to invite those who have voted to stand with them in prayer.
Hanneman said embracing Jesus’ principles for resolving conflict and loving enemies isn’t easy in a place where nearly everybody has experienced the trauma of civil war, but people who participated in the workshops are “eager to break the cycle of violence in their nation and to take the risk for peace.”
Based in Charlotte, N.C., the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America’s relationships in Liberia began with a 1996 friendship tour. Earlier this year, a Liberian pastor contacted the organization’s leaders to inquire about the possibility of conflict transformation training prior to the October election.
“I urge those of us not in Liberia to join in the Days of Prayers and Fasting before the elections,” Hanneman said in a press release Oct. 5.
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.