Liberian President argues against ‘Christian state’ proposal

In April 2015, lawmakers successfully proposed a constitutional amendment that, if approved, would reinstate Christianity as the official state religion. This attempt follows Christian leaders’ fruitless efforts in 2013 to submit a similar petition to lawmakers in the Liberian House and Senate.

Last month the Muslim leader and peace advocate Sheikh Kafumba Konneh died. He was the head of the Muslim Council of Liberia, who railed against global Muslim fundamentalism and helped quell inter-ethnic and religious tensions during Liberia’s 14-year civil war. As a founding member of the Interfaith Committee of Liberia, Konneh participated in peace talks throughout Liberia and neighboring Sierra Leone with other faith leaders. After the war ended in 2003, he joined Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, maintaining his reputation as a unifier until his death.

ThinkProgress reported that the passing of the prominent figure came at a time when religious tensions in Liberia are running high. “There’s a possibility that Liberia may soon officially become a Christian state — a change that some citizens say could cause another civil war. That outcome is likely the last thing that Konneh would have wanted to see.”

This week President Sirleaf Johnson described the proposed constitutional change as ‘antithetical” to the peaceful co-existence of Liberians, reports the Liberia News Agency.

She said although Liberia was established on the foundation of Christianity, the founders of the Republic did not put into the Liberian Constitution a declaration of Christianity as the nation’s religion.

The Liberian leader explained that the Constitution has always allowed freedom of religion and worship without seeking to describe or prescribe one religion as the official religion, adding, “To do so now could foment division amongst the citizens based on religious beliefs.”

She stressed that the Article 14 of the Constitution correctly separates religion and state, and provides specifically and unequivocally that the Republic shall establish no religion.

Her communication has been sent to the Liberian Senate for further deliberation.

Today, The Perspective publishes a lengthy article by Josephus M Gray under the heading President Sirleaf’s Rejection to The “Christian State” Proposal: Good or Bad for Liberia?

He states that as one of thousands of Liberians who is against the Christianisation of Liberia, he sees the president’s rejection as a relief from a potential religious crisis from the country, especially between the two most recognised religion institutions in the country – Christianity and Islam.

“Today’s battles between the two popular religions in Liberia, a nation founded by its founding fathers on ‘Christian’s principles,’ are much more turbulent than in the past, and may degenerate further, possibly into bedlam, if amicable solution is not proffer. The well-organised Christian conformists, both leaders and their supporters who are seeking to “baptize” Liberia, are politically stronger, more energized this time, and better determined than ever before in achieving their objective to baptize the nation into Christianity through a referendum for a “Yes” vote.

“Although secularism is proceeding rapidly in the Liberian society, nevertheless religion continues to be an important political phenomenon in the body politics of the nation, for multiple reasons. Some religious groups in Liberia see the move to constitutionalize Christianity as a direct threat to their faith and alienate them, arguing that the move implies their exclusion. They argue further that it is unfair for their religious beliefs.”

He highlights that a new Pew Research analysis finds that 30 of the world’s countries (15%) belong to a unique group of nations that call for their heads of state to have a particular religious affiliation. From monarchies to republics, candidates in these countries must belong to a specific religious group. More than half of the countries with religion-related restrictions on their heads of state (17) maintain that the office must be held by a Muslim. More