Anyone who thought that this July 26, 2020 Independence Day oration would have been a tad mellower than last year’s message got a good shocker when Liberty Christian Center Founder and President Reverend Simeon L. Dunbar took the podium, outlining myriad societal “pandemics” that are far greater than the current COVID-19 pandemic that is ravaging the globe.
Speaking on the theme: “Standing Together in a Time of Pandemic”, Rev. Dunbar noted that the wisdom of his preferment from the religious sector was not only intended for Liberians to hear the word of God that heals wounds and brings deliverance, but to discuss national problems that make all Liberians vulnerable as a nation, and find the way forward to set the right priorities.
The Liberian cleric said, although the nation is battling the Coronavirus pandemic, “We are still at war with far greater pandemics than COVID-19. We cannot and will not stand together to win any battle in a society that condones injustice, rampant corruption, disobedience or non-adherence for the rule of law, nepotism and tribalism, sexual violence and gender-based violence, lack of genuine reconciliation, lack of patriotism, lack of accountability, lack of integrity and with no fear of God; for God hates these vices.”
Reflecting on the theme of his oration, Rev. Dunbar outlined what he noted as factors of disagreement that divide and weaken togetherness for Liberians, especially when they are also battling the Coronavirus pandemic.
“What does it mean to stand together? The gospel of Mark 3:25 says “…if a nation be divided against itself, that nation cannot stand. Where do we stand together, when there’s no equal platform for all? While some are standing in the trenches of Bokon Jeadea, others are standing in unmerited riches and stolen wealth. While majority are standing in the swamps of Gbayhdin, others are relaxing on the top of Mt. Nimba,” Reverend Dunbar lamented.
Recalling the popular Liberian saying: “Empty Bag Cannot Stand,” Reverend Dunbar wondered how can Liberians stand together when some bags are empty and other bags and bellies are full and overflowing?
“Is it possible to stand together when some are standing on the sandy beaches of West Point and New Kru Town with daily sea incursions and growing cases of homelessness, while others are standing in luxurious hotel lobbies and reporting to work on Monday afternoon? How do we stand together, when everyday our future female leaders are crying and living in constant fear of abuse?
A country where RAPE is no longer an abomination but now a culture and way of life,” the reverend wondered.
“How do we stand when at 173 years old as a Nation we are still dependent on donor monies that are no longer coming in, and meanwhile corruption has become the standard way of life for the vast majority? Most importantly, how do we stand together, when we are one nation, very divided with no liberty or justice for all?” Rev. Dunbar questioned.
Change cometh with dashed hope
Reminiscent of the woebegone voice of Prophet Elijah in the Book of Kings when he warned King Ahab about repentance, Reverend Dunbar recalled how Liberians literally wore sackcloth yearning for change, with the hope that their lives would improve.
“We’ve sung numerous songs as a people over many years of democracy that align with our national situation. Even to the most recent electoral process and smooth transition of power to a new government, our people sang the praises of our leader and the very famous slogan; “CHANGE FOR HOPE”. Your Excellency, indeed the Change has come, now where is the Hope?” the cleric wondered.
“Our people from the Kru tribe will say “Ta ba wuolo-kpaili ne wa”, in Gio we say “Qwaa Zoe dui-ameh”, the Mandingos say “Ja- yee-see- Nah Meni”, our Bassa people say “ Deh wodoe con day-dehor da”, the Kissi will say “ or te da num doe”, and the Kpelle people will say “Lallah-ca-Muh. As a people of different tongues, we ask this question daily in expectation of some answers,” Rev. Dunbar philosophized.
What obstructs togetherness?
Rev. Dunbar also outlined key factors that impede togetherness among Liberians, noting that the people cannot stand together when rumors of illegal exploitation of our God given mineral resources by foreign nationals sponsored by unpatriotic Liberian citizens go without redress to the whistle blower complaint.
The government will only be undermining itself if such conduct is allowed to go unchecked, he noted.
“Mr. President, the Pandemic has negatively affected every Liberian; no one is left untouched and we applaud your government’s effort for distributing food to Liberians but please remove the adjective, “vulnerable Liberians” and say all Liberian citizens so we can stand together,” Rev. Dunbar cautioned.
“We cannot stand together when we as religious leaders do not fulfill God given mandate to preach the gospel fearlessly about the ills in society, no matter who is or should be involved, without compromising the truth. By speaking the truth, we may be hated; but souls will be saved and the good of society will be maintained,” the cleric spoke, apparently referencing some religious leaders who threatened hellfire and brimstone on anyone that speaks negatively about the president.
“We must respect the retirement age and policy; and discourage recycling politicians who outlive their time in government as a means to providing equal opportunities to our prepared youths into public service,” Rev. Dunbar said.
The people’s part in bringing about togetherness
Reverend Dunbar further noted that the people of Liberia have a major role to play in fostering togetherness in the country.
“As a people, we need to change our mindset and stop the dependency syndrome. Instead of running to the government for everything, let us stop and put our hands to work. There is a global adage that says, ‘No Food for Lazy Man’, so we must be willing to work. For the only substitute for hard work is hard life. Even the bible says in Proverbs 10:4, “He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand,” Rev. Dunbar noted, advising that Government jobs and public office is not for everyone.
“Let us pay attention to the importance of the private sector by encouraging their participation through elevating Liberian-owned businesses with the objective of aiding them to grow. Our people must be made to understand that they own the government. So, with the ownership mindset, we should work collectively to see that Liberia prosper and is transformed in our lifetime,” Rev. Dunbar cautioned.
Liberia, he said, will forever remain stronger together when the people are united in one purpose to protect the national interest, despite political differences.
“For the Bible says, “…Behold the people are one, and they have one language and what they have imagined to do, nothing can be withheld from them, according to Gen. 11:6. As a people our strength is in Unity, we need to stand together in our common vision and common agenda for the prosperity of our nation. We the people also need to understand that Monrovia is not Liberia and America is not Heaven. We need to cherish what we have and help to make it better. With God’s help and hard work, this nation can be transformed through our own hands,” the Liberian cleric stated.
“For those of us who are not policy makers today, remember the saying “Cassava leaf is not for goat alone” …there’s always a time and season for everything, Wait for your time. Sow good seeds into the future of your nation. Do constructive criticisms and put Liberia first and not greed and selfish ambition.
As a people we must never forget that the peace we enjoy today came at a very high price of sweat, blood and tears by Liberians and our brothers and sisters and from intervention forces in the sub-region and other nations,” he advised, further calling on Liberians to deal cautiously in the maintenance of the current peace which is more valuable than gold, diamond or any precious stone.
“It’s on record that United Nation/UNMIL invested 7.5 billion over a 15 years period in keeping and maintaining the peace Liberians enjoy today, Rev. Dunbar noted.
Sounding a caveat to Diaspora-based Liberians, the respected cleric said, “it has been over 400 plus years since Africans and Liberians have contributed immensely to the growth and civilization of other nations. It is now time to return home. I say this to buttress the fact that every single conflict in Liberia in the past 50 years has been sponsored directly or indirectly by those in the Diaspora. Equally so, the current growth and development in our political and economic landscape is also being supported by you Liberians in the diaspora. Therefore, this is an open invitation for you to return with your resources, knowledge and expertise and invest in the Motherland. There is no place like home. Liberia is all we have, let’s give her the best we can.”
The Government’s Part in bringing about togetherness
Recalling the part that government plays in fostering togetherness, Rev. Dunbar said government needs to avoid foreign aids that will keep the nation captive to the donors; for is it is written in the Bible in Proverbs 22:7, the rich ruleth over the poor and the borrower is a slave to the lender.
“How can we claim to be independent and still depend on foreign aids and imports of our staple food and basic commodities to boost our economy? The decisions that run our government should not be made in other capitals around the world. Anyone who feeds you, will control you,” Rev. Dunbar noted.
“Mr. President, while it is true that you are faced with a very difficult task of leading a mysterious nation like ours, we would also like to encourage you to lead by example and be wise and decisive in your leadership. Don’t let these people spoil your government for you with ill advice. Don’t be overly concerned about your opposition but rather, your social contract with the people and be concerned of your secret enemies who parade as friends around you.
Be careful of who you allow in your inner court. Be open up to ideas from wise technocrats who are well experienced and possess some measure of the fear of God. Be courageous and strong as our captain and lead this team to its noble destination,” the cleric cautioned.
The Way Forward
Providing what he proposed as the way forward in righting the wrongs, Reverend Dunbar observed that the fate of Liberia does not only rest in the hands of the Government but rather with a united people.
“It is in our hands, in order to stand together in these troubling times; we need to stand together in fighting the battle of discrimination and injustice in our society, irrespective of the status of the perpetrator. We need to remind ourselves of our past negative, dark and distorted history not to repeat the past mistakes that continue to divide us rather than unite us to focus on righting the wrongs of the past rather than using the wrongs to gain political power,” Rev. Dunbar advised.
“We need to do away with deep seated hatred for each other, that only provides a platform for denying opportunities reserved by our laws for Liberians to foreigners. Can a nation love her neighbors more than herself? I say no as an answer. Empower Liberians first and foremost,” the Liberian cleric averred.
“We can stand together when our actions fall in line with our policy to control and prevent infant and maternal mortality rate in our cities and rural communities. Yes, we can stand together when health facilities and institutions are properly equipped to discourage our government officials and citizens from seeking medical treatment abroad,” Rev. Dunbar stated.
“Never again must we allow ourselves to be divided along religious lines, for we are all interrelated. We need to learn to be a cohesive nation with one mind, and put Liberia First. Never again must we be divided along tribal, political and sectional lines,” he warned, noting, “We must discourage jungle justice in the name of vengeance and retribution and say no to mob justice. There must be value and respect for every human life.”
A New Dawn Ahead
Having expounded on myriad ways through which Liberians can overcome adversities and forge togetherness, Reverend Dunbar enjoined the nation to remain positive in the midst of trials and tribulations.
“Fellow citizens, my parting statement, Liberia is a century plus years older than all her neighbors and ought to be a positive example. Liberia is so blessed but her children do not know nor understand the magnitude of her blessings. Liberia is too rich; you must have a blind mind and weak hands not to benefit from her riches. Liberia is too great, that great nations of the universe are all beneficiaries of her ancient greatness. Liberia is too unique that all her people groups are interrelated. Liberia is too strong, that she has survived many global wars and her own internal battles and she will surely triumph in this current pandemic.
As a Member of the Body of Christ, a Clergyman, a Stakeholder and a Son of the Soil, I would like to publicly declare that I see a bright light at the end of the tunnel. I see Hope for Liberia, Her People and Her Institutions. I see Liberia becoming a blessing to herself and not a burden, to nations of the sub-region and the world.
I see the dawn of a new day. I see total restoration of our collective human dignity. I see respect for the rule of law. I see revival. I see the fear of God. Liberia will be great again, for in Job 14:7, the Bible says “there is hope for a tree if it be cut down, that through the scent of water it will sprout again.”