Tuesday, 25 November 2003

Monrovia (Fides Service) – Is there a threat of Muslim fundamentalism in Liberia? Local sources told Fides that in recent years of civil war between president Taylor and the rebel groups LURD (Liberians United per la Reconciliation and Democracy) and MODEL (Movement for Democracy in Liberia), a good number of young men were sent to Arab countries to be indoctrinated in Islamic schools. “The young men were mostly Mandingo” a missionary with years of experience in Liberia told Fides. “LURD troops are 75% Muslim and mostly Mandingos. Up to now the religious factor was not part of the scene of civil war, but now many fear infiltration by Islamic extremists in Liberia.”
“The civil war destroyed the whole system of social structures including schools. This meant that boys were more easily drawn to Islamic schools. People from Arab states came to Liberia offering scholarships for Madrasse schools in their countries” the source told Fides. “This cannot be condemned as such but it is important to know what the boys were taught: a tolerant version of Islam or the extremist position?”
Consolata missionary Sisters who run a leprosy centre in Ganta (Nimba northern Liberia), told Fides that “ever more frequently we see anti-Christian slogans on the walls of destroyed houses ‘no Bible, up with the Koran’. Most of the city was destroyed there is not one house standing on the main road. The violence here is due to the fact that the local people supported exiled president Charles Taylor. It was support from these tribes which helped Taylor take power in the 1990s. Today the former president’s enemies are taking revenge on the people here. At this point there is more concern about the threat of an ethnic, tribal conflict rather than a war of religion. But if measures are not taken to stop the violence and restore stability also in the interior of Liberia, the door to extremism could be opened”.
“At this stage of transition when the national unity government has not yet obtained control of the whole territory, anyone with a rifle is the boss ” the Sisters told Fides. “We see this because to go from Harbel (50 km from Monrovia) to Ganta we encounter so many check points set up by different bands of militia which each control part of the road. Thank God we are still able to carry supplies to the leprosy colony where the number of inmates is on the rise ”.
MINUL United Nations Mission in Liberia has completed the deployment of 13,000 peace keeping troops to help the national unity government to take control of the country and disarm the different militia groups which continue to sow violence. (L.M.) (Fides Service 25/11/2003, lines 40 words 519)