Crisis in Sierra Leone

Violence continues in the aftermath of the recent coup in Sierra Leone. According to a church official who did not want to be named because he fears for his life, Sierra Leone has become a "killing field," and the people of the West African nation are "in the midst of a tragedy of historic proportions."

On May 25, renegade soldiers joined with rebels to oust President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, a civilian elected last year after a bloody civil war and international censure helped force the military government to hold elections. "Sierra Leoneans were proud of their new-found democracy," said Crispin Cole of the Evangelical Fellowship of Sierra Leone. "This coup is a setback to lasting peace and progress."

Ron Mitchell, an advocate who once served as a missionary in Sierra Leone, reports that rebels have taken over church services at gunpoint to preach their own sermons. Other churches have been compelled to hold "thanksgiving services" to commemorate the May coup.

Said Mitchell, "Several months ago the country was doing well, but renegade soldiers—by sheer force—have hijacked the country and are pillaging it at will. Now more than 30,000 Sierra Leoneans have taken refugee outside the country, fleeing what the soldiers themselves call ‘Operation Pay Yourself.’"

Churches that want to become more involved can contact the Sierra Leone Emergency Network at (914) 668-2894.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 1997
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