Tag Archives: Liberia

PERSISTENT FOR PEACE by Tammy Barthels, M.Div. Middler and Prof. Norma Cook Everist

“It is a delight to come home to Wartburg. Wartburg has strengthened me and formed me in who I am today.”

Dr. Winston Persaud introduced her Excellency Marie Jilo Barnett to the Wartburg community at a dinner given in her honor this Spring.  Appointed in 2008, she is Sierra Leone’s first female ambassador to Liberia, as well as to Core d’Ivoire. Marie studied at Wartburg from 1990 to 1994, when she received her M.Div. degree.

Reverend Barnett was passionate and invoked hope with each word that she spoke about teaching men and women to co-exist in the Image of God. “It is possible,” she said.

Ambassador Barnett is zealous about negotiating peace and promoting women. She was the first Lutheran woman to be ordained in Western Africa. Her position as Ambassador is about building bridges between Liberia and Sierra Leone; this, she said, is the essence of her appointment.

She encourages women to take action. “Do what you can. Avoid Chaos. Pray with one another, do not pray alone. Get everyone of all races and religions involved. Say ‘NO’ to injustice.”

Ambassador Barnett is called to serve. She did not campaign, nor did she join a political party. She is doing what she believes is hers to do. She depends on her faith and is strong in prayer. “Seek the kingdom and all will be given to you.” Her faith gives her the strength to sit on parliament and represent women and their rights.  She believes strength comes when women come together and support one another. She said, “We do not do it on our own.”  She is involved with a network of women: women lawyers, women doctors, and women from the market. “Together we make a difference. In the nothingness that we have, we share, and we have much.”

Marie has seen a lot of hardship and constantly worked in ministries of reconciliation.  She sees the need to build bridges of peace.  In her role now as Ambassador and also through Lutheran World Federation she has had many opportunities to serve.  “God has been with me everywhere I have been all over the world.”

Ambassador Barnett had worked with Laymeh Gbowoee, well-known Lutheran laywoman who led the peace-movement in Liberia. She said to Gbowe, “Don’t sit alone.” Barnett and other women supported the women from Liberia in the peace talks. Ambassador Barnett now works with Liberian President Serlief. Gbowe and Serlief both became Nobel Peace Prize recipients.

When asked what is most important for her theologically, Ambassador Barnett said, “Justification by grace through faith.  If we have faith, the Holy Spirit will guide us.” She told of times when she needed to speak publicly in crucial diplomatic situations.  “The Holy Spirit would guide my words.  Be strong in prayer.”

Marie’s husband, Tom, also received his M.Div from Wartburg in 1994 and now serves as the bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierre Leone.  Dr. Dan Olson, WTS professor emeritus, preached at their ordination in Sierre Leone.  In a church of lay leadership, the Barnetts were the first to be ordained.   Marie served as pastor of Faith Community Lutheran Church, Freetown.

While at Wartburg Marie said that she and Tom were welcomed and supported as international students.  She said, “The international students saw some American students for whom ends did not meet.”  Together with others started the food pantry for students , which continues to this day.

When asked about the demands of her busy life, Marie responded, “When I’m helping people, I’m revived.”  She  concluded with Christ’s mandate: “Go and baptize all nations. Do not be afraid. I will be with you to the end of the age.”

From 1996 – 2002 Marie was a member of Parliament in Sierre Leonne, serving on various Committees asfollows:

1. Foreign Affairs and International

Cooperation Founded the Network of Women Ministers and Parliamentarians and served as Vice President.

2. Health and Environment Pioneered the settingup of the National AIDS Secretariate.

3. Education – Participated in the oversight that saw the University of Sierra Leone

locate campuses in the different Geographical Regions.

4. Defence – The only female member of the drafting committee of the much celebrated

“Lome Peace Accord” that brought lasting peace to Sierra Leone in 2002.

5. Works and Infrastructure – Pioneered the setting up of the Social Action for Poverty

Alleviation under the National Commission for Re-integration, Repatriation and Resettlement.

6. Social Welfare, Gender and Children

Set up the network of women Ministers

“WOMEN, WAR, AND PEACE,” A REVIEW by Jenn Collins, M.Div. Senior

Women, War & Peace” is a bold new five-part PBS television series challenging the conventional wisdom that war and peace are men’s domain.”

Eight women gathered at Wartburg Seminary for a four-week module led by Professor Norma Cook Everist called, Gender, Power, and Leadership.  None of us knew what a profound impact it would have on us.  We reflected on our womanhood and our call to ministry as women.

We also spent time listening to the stories of women from around the globe whose courageous voices were raised toward justice in the midst of war and strife.  These voices came to us through the five-part PBS series, Women, War, and Peace. (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/women-war-and-peace).

From Bosnia to Liberia, Afro-Columbia to Afghanistan, women speak of harsh injustices inflicted not only on other women, but also on all people as a consequence of war.  While we face brokenness in our own ways, we who are not at war do not face these atrocities.  The women of Bosnia and Liberia have been raped as a strategy for war.  The women of Columbia have been taken advantage of and silenced as their families’ homes have been taken away at the expense of greed.  The women of Afghanistan have endured death after death as their loved ones are thrown into the fight.

The documentary series, while naming harsh realities faced by women, also testifies to the heroic acts of women like Nobel Peace Prize winner, Leymah Gbowee, Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, women who were judges at the war court that tried the men who organized strategic rape, and the list continues…

This captivating series, produced by Gini Reticker is beautifully filmed and edited.  The full five episodes can be found on-line and could be used by congregations as a five-part study on women and war, or could be watched independently. 

 This 5-part video series is available in the Wartburg Seminary Library collection.

LUTHERAN PEACE ACTIVIST WINS NOBEL PRIZE By Roberta Pierce, M.Div., Senior

Leymah Roberta Gbowee, A Lutheran Liberian peace activist, has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in the non-violent peace movement in Liberia. Her beginnings in this movement began in 2002, when she sat daily with thousands of women praying for peace. The war in Liberia has raged on for 14 years and these women were tired of being raped, while their men died and their children were taken by soldiers.

Gbowee is trained as a trauma counselor and worked with ex-child soldiers. It was this work that led her to become a spokeswoman for the peace protest. She said, “If any changes were to be made in society it had to be by the mothers.” The women kept coming and their voices were finally heard. In 2003, hundreds of women, including Gbowee, went to Monrovia’s City Hall demanding an end to the war. They continued to protest until their voices were heard. They gave the three warring factions three days to deliver an unconditional ceasefire and begin peace talks. They got what they asked for and the Accra Peace Accord was signed in Ghana.

Gbowee’s story is told in her recently published memoir, Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War. A documentary about her work has also been produced, “Pray the Devil Back to Hell.”

The Nobel Peace Prize website lists this as the prize motivation, “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for the women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”

Leymah Roberta Gbowee knew in her heart that something had to be done to save her people. She was not afraid to stand up for what she knew was right. As it says in Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (NRSV) Gbowee has done just that, along with hundreds of women who knew it would take the mothers to bring about peace.