Friday, July 10, 2009

Interview with Thomas from Liberia

For African Church History class, we were assigned an oral history project. I interviewed my friend Thomas from Liberia, and he has quite a story to tell. I asked if I could post it, and he agreed. We had to do a transcript of our interview, and I have not edited it. These are very selected excerpts, however, since the transcript came to five single spaced pages.

So they were fighting all over, a battlefront all over. And this process was tense for every Liberians. And so the government troops almost relent in the middle of the war, but they kind of divided themselves, those who were able to submit to Charles Taylor troops came on his side and were fighting for him. So those who remained independent, they also formed their own group, then those who diverted from their own groups: so we had more than 5 different groups fighting the same civil war. So as a result, people would come from outside of the country and just form their own group, people would remain in America and begin to support group and they organize people and the people begin to fight.

Ok, as for the church, I think the main issue was that most of the members left and went exile, ok, like my church went to Ivory Coast, other people went to Guinea, some went to Sierra Leone, some went to Ghana, some went to Nigeria. So the few people that remained in Liberia where I was, some of them actually became apostate because of the situation they found themselves in. Some begin to mix Christianity with other religions. Some begin to go for protection, we saw Christians going to herbalist to get protection for gun-proof. Ok, so when you get the gun-proof you begin to fight for Charles Taylor I think you begin to lose your identity you Christian identity so many people backslid because of this issue. Some other people were carried away by peer pressure because your friend comes from the battle-front and tells you, my man, this thing is easy, if you go and fight nothing will happen. Just take your own time and just follow instruction. Some Christians even join their friends to fight the war. Ok, so the church was greatly affected.

[Thomas went to Ivory Coast as a refugee.] The Ivorians decided that since war is in our country, we left our country and entered their country we brought the ugly feeling and the ugly behavior with us. So any ugly thing that any Ivorian does, they would say, those Liberians are the ones behaving like that. So I decided to leave Ivory Coast.

So while the war was going on I entered Liberia, and there was some friends of mine who took… When I was a student at ABC I bought some produce, coffee and cocoa, so I kept it in my house, in my home town. But these rebels conquered the place and they begin to take my coffee and cocoa and bring it over to Ivory Coast to sell it. So I decided, I saw one of my friends who said, “Oh, your coffee you left over there is now for the rebels, and they are taking the coffee and selling it.” So I decided to go back and get my coffee because my family never had anything. So I crossed the river, I never went to the rebel side, I went down the river because Liberia is bordered by Ivory Coast and there is a big river that divides the two countries, so I went across the river downstream, and I was able to cross and get to my village. So I passed and went to the town, I saw some of the coffee even though they have taken some, but I took two bags and carried to our village and I hired people, we took it and brought it to Ivory Coast. I sold it, and I paid people to come back for the balance.

So when I came, I decided to actually be in Liberia, but the question that came to my mind is what am I going to do in Liberia when war is going on? But the way I observed the rebels, their behavior and other things, brought another idea, God spoke to me that I think I should be in the midst of these people and be able to talk with anyone that would be open to me. So I begin to evangelize. Yes. So from one person to another, I begin to talk from one place to another, from one village to another village, until I was able to establish 6 different preaching stations in different, different villages, ok. So these six different preaching stations, I went back to the Ivory Coast and brought one of my friends who worked along with me. So we used to walk like 13 hours in a day to go from village to village to evangelize. But the best thing I did was, I could not go from place to place like that without handling arm, ok, so I decided to go for their training. So I went, they trained me, and they taught me how to handle the gun, how to dismantle it, and how to assemble it. So they taught me everything, and I managed to get one from their main commander. So he gave me the arm, I just used to handle the arm and move from place to place.

I do not take part in anything that they do, but I always advise them when they were doing wrong and remind that that this country you see would never remain like this. Though you are killing some people, but other people would remain alive. You may kill a brother of another sister, and this sister will live to see you another time: what will you tell the person? So I was able to convince most of them, and I was able to relieve some other people that they arrested who were going to Ivory Coast, citizens leaving the country because of war, they were rescued and they want you to remain with them. And they don’t feed the people. So once you arrest somebody and you are not able to feed the person I would go there and say, “But if you keep this person the person will die. You either release them, or continue to feed them daily.” Now if you can’t feed them, then I will tell you, let them go. So I was able to help plenty of people.

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