Thursday, 25 April 2013

Green Tea and Mob Justice

I’m feeling rather African tonight. I’m sitting around a table with 4 UN soldiers from Gambia, drinking green tea and listening (involuntarily I might add) to Gambian music. Never mind the fact that the tea is so “green” that I can practically taste the grass in it and that the music sounds like the same line repeated over and over again about twenty times – it’s still an interesting experience. I’m in a guesthouse, by the way – I’ve been staying here since I got back to Liberia two weeks ago. The UN guys are staying here for a while as well – they just came to Liberia a week ago and are doing some training in the city before being deployed somewhere else in the country. They are all Muslim and we’ve had a couple interesting conversations – pray for them please!

I’ve restarted most of my usual workload since returning – Sunday School, Bible Club, Reading Club, music lessons, and teaching at the Christian School. I was very encouraged to find that the children’s work in the church went on well in my absence, under the direction of Nathan Barco (the young man who’s the official leader of the Sunday School and has been working alongside me since I came here a year ago). There was a slight decrease in attendance which I had feared, but Nathan didn’t let it discourage him. He told me today that he didn’t mind how few kids were there, he was determined to start each meeting on time. He’s been teaching the Bible Club lesson each Wednesday since I returned, and he’s doing really well. Please keep praying for this young man – he certainly has a heart for the children’s work.

I’ve been teaching my Bible class at the Christian school the story of Noah and was reading again of how the earth in those days was corrupt and filled with violence. I got a very dramatic glimpse of the violence and corruption of Liberian society on Sunday after church. I was just getting into the car to head home when a lady who was getting a lift home with me suddenly shouted, “Don’t kill him! Don’t kill him!” For a minute I thought she had gone crazy but then I also looked across the road and saw a crowd gathering. We ran over to find that the men in that house had caught a thief on their property, caught him apparently red-handed, and were now taking justice into their own hands by stripping and beating him.

It took some time to calm them down, but we eventually convinced them that they should send the man to the police station to be charged for his crimes. An off-duty policeman came on the scene and showed us his ID and then took the man off to jail. We haven’t heard anything since Sunday so I don’t know if the offended parties actually decided to prosecute him or not. They were protesting that the reason they were beating him was to teach him a lesson because the police and court system are so corrupt that they would never get justice from them. Sadly, they were right about the corruption.

What really astonished me about the whole episode was the absolute violence and cruelty that exploded in front of my eyes. Certainly, the men had a right to be angry with the thief, but they actually seemed to relish beating him. And the crowd of young men who gathered were eagerly joining in on the beating, even though they had no idea if he had done anything to deserve it. I asked one of our church men afterwards if he might actually have been killed if we hadn’t been there. He said yes, it was very likely. He said that Liberian “mob justice” often results in the person being beaten to death, and then his body is thrown on the road. As I said above, I was astonished at the violence and cruelty, but I was also scared – not for myself, but for Liberia. Not just because of the potential for physical violence that was evidenced, but because the episode gave a glimpse into their hearts. There is much talk of peace and reconciliation here, and education and moving forward and “building Mama Liberia”, but the bottom line is that nothing but the Gospel will change Liberia for the better, because nothing but the Gospel can change the hearts of wicked and violent men.

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