The story of UNMIL [Book]: Proposal for a Christian state risks hard-won calm

Liberian traditional and religious leaders working together for peace. Photo: Staton Winter | UNMIL | 24 Apr 13

30 Mar 2018

The story of UNMIL [Book]: Proposal for a Christian state risks hard-won calm

During the first half of 2016, UNMIL helped diffuse potential conflict between Liberia’s Christian and Muslim communities which emerged from the country’s constitutional review process. One of the proposals made during this process was to declare Liberia “a Christian nation.”

Muslims perceived this as a serious provocation: as a result, the National Muslim Council of Liberia and the Imam Council suspended their participation in the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia.

Considering these developments as a serious threat to peace consolidation and national unity, UNMIL’s Political and Civil Affairs officers engaged with Christian and Muslim leaders through a set of bilateral meetings to ascertain the framework for a constructive inter-religious dialogue in an effort to defuse tensions. This followed a series of high-level meetings between the SRSG, senior religious leaders and politicians.

Using his good offices, the SRSG created opportunities for Christian and Muslim leaders to consider possible implications of pursuing this proposal. They then issued public statements, dissociating their respective bodies from the controversial proposal. This allowed both sides to rejoin the Inter-Religious Council and focus on issues such as ensuring a peaceful electoral process, consolidating the hard-earned peace, and addressing the root causes of conflict and the wider development prospects for the country. A wide discussion ensued, involving all concerned stakeholders on a narrative of common interest and on the positive achievements of Liberia.

Ultimately, the SRSG’s robust engagement fostered an even closer engagement than previously between the Christian and Muslim communities, as well as the shelving of the proposal by the Legislature and executive branch of the Government. There was then a tacit agreement among most lawmakers to postpone discussions on this proposal pending future action by the new Government in 2018.