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Baptist Relief Group Seeks Aid for Liberia

The relief arm of the Baptist World Alliance has renewed a plea for urgent humanitarian aid to Liberia, a West African nation plagued recently by escalated fighting in a 14-year civil war.

Liberian Baptists in exile want to raise $30,000 from the world Baptist community to purchase rice quantities to address an acute food shortage in the country, Paul Montacute, director of BWAid, and Emile Sam-Peal, general secretary of Liberian Baptists, said in a joint statement Friday.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
Liberian Baptists plan to distribute small amounts of food, medicines and other items to people in need.
 
Sam-Peal also asked Baptists for help in obtaining larger amounts of food. “If you know of and are acquainted with persons, institutions, businesses that are wholesale dealers of food commodities,” he said, “who will be willing to make a generous contribution to this project, or will give discount prices, please let us know so that we can work together.”
 
Two rebel groups and government forces have fought intensely the last three months, displacing thousands of Liberians into refugee camps around the country and across borders into neighboring nations. More than 2,500 have died in recent fighting.
 
About 300 displaced persons are staying temporarily at the Liberia Baptist Seminary, the BWA leaders said.
 
Sam-Peal asked fellow Baptists to pray for peace in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Liberia. He also sought prayer for the nation’s churches and leaders, for families in desperate need and for the international community, including the United States, to immediately send peacekeeping troops to restore order.
 
President Bush said Monday the U.S. might send troops to Liberia, but not until an initial peacekeeping force from Ecowas, a regional group of African nations, is in place and only if Liberian President Charles Taylor leaves the country.
 
BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz wrote Bush last month urging “immediate action to safeguard the lives and good of the people of Liberia.”
 
Reuters reported renewed fighting Thursday and Friday as soldiers loyal to Taylor sought to block the rebel group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy from advancing toward Monrovia.
 
“We are going to die here if the peacekeepers do not come soon,” Bill Wiley, who resides in the capital city, told Reuters. “The dissidents will kill us.”
 
The rebels want to remove Taylor, a former warlord who has been indicted by a U.N.-backed tribunal for war crimes, from power.
 
In an earlier fund-raising appeal, Montacute said existing BWAid funds for Liberia were in arrears after several years of spending in excess of income.
 
About 200,000 people died in Liberia’s civil war between 1989 and 1994. Since renewed violence in 1999, more than a million residents have been displaced and half a million have fled to other countries.
 
Leaders of the warring groups signed a cease-fire agreement June 17, but peace talks were discontinued a week later as fighting continued.
 
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
 
Contributions to BWAid for hunger and humanitarian relief to Liberia should be designated “Liberia Relief.” Click here for information about how to donate.