The Liberian Council of Churches in collaboration with the African Council of Religious Leaders — Religions for Peace (ACRL—RfP ) and the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC Africa) organized and celebrated the World International Day of Prayer and Action for Children in Rural Montserrado County, Todee District, Liberia, hosted by the Gwee Town Presbyterian Church. six (6) Churches, namely: The host, Gwee Town Presbyterian Church, Praise and Deliverance Ministry, United Methodist Church, The Lutheran Church, Wesleyan Church, and the International Bible Church, participated in the celebrations.
Children in these communities have not been fortunate enough to participate in such events. Many of these events are always planned for Urban Montserrado County, specifically Monrovia areas, thus locking out children in rural areas, who are mostly affected by many violent activities. Children in these communities live within plantations, where they are compelled and forced to work in these plantations, engaging in activities such as tapping latex from rubber trees, burning charcoal, hawking activities in the villages and towns and engaging in other farming activities to help their poor parents meet their daily basic needs. Girls between the ages of 13-17 years are not going to school; they are forced into early marriage and teenage pregnancy.
Children posing for group photo after workshop
As a result of the above deplorable situation of the children living in this target community, the need for massive awareness campaign activities on violence against children cannot be overemphasized.
Activities to mark the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children in Liberia were done in two phases.
19th November 2011
Activity 1: Awareness creation workshop
The first phase was centered on the theme awareness creation on Violence Against Children (VAC) under the sub-theme, “Stopping Violence against Children: The need for strong action”.
Over 200 children attended and participated during the awareness creation workshop. Rev. Yah Mitchell, Associate Pastor of the Gwee Town Presbyterian Church, and an advocate for the rights of children outlined some forms of violence that are meted against children in Liberia as follow:
• Sexual Violence
• Physical assaults
• Child labor
• Drug abuse
• Cultural practices, including Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), forceful initiation into the Poro and Sande societies and early marriage
• Basic needs deprivation including health, education, and social needs by parents, state actors and educational institutions, etc.
Rev. Mitchell informed the children that despite their young age, they have rights that must be safe guarded by leaders to ensure a better and a vibrant society. He further said that in order to stop violence against children, there was need for strong political will to enforce for law including punishing perpetrators of VAC. Rev. Mitchell advised children to refuse every attempt by parents to stop them from going to school and to disagree with parents who want them to marry at an earlier age. He called on the Religious Leaders to use the religious gatherings and the pulpit to raise awareness on stopping violence against children.
Facilitator speaking during workshop Children listening attentively
Activity 2: Bible Quizzing
Children from the six (6) Churches were divided into two (2) groups, each with Sunday School Teachers drawing up questions from the Bible for team members to answer.
Children in the Bible quiz contest
Activity 3: Entertainment Activities
Sporting activities were organized by the Working Committee for the children where both Kickball and Football games were played, while musical set was provided for the little ones to dance, and have fun. Lunch was also served.
Children participating in football and kickball events, while little ones are celebrating.
Activity: Prayer Service for Children in Liberia and the world
20th November 2011
Sunday, November 20, 2011 was the climax day and more than 200 children, adults and parents attended.
Prayer Service for Children in Liberia and the world was held during this day.
From right, Rev. Freeman and Rev. Townsend and Clergy Partial view of the children during the prayer service
Rev. Mother Dwede G. Townsend, Youth Director, Presbytery of Liberia was key speaker of the day. She Spoke on the sub-topic: “Children are the Heart Beat of the Nations”, with Text taken from Proverbs 22:6. Her message focused on some acts of violence that are carried out against children in the homes by parents, such as: lack of proper care and concern, including food, education, and health. She spoke against poor parenting that often results mal-adapted children who later on engage in violent activities. She spoke against the practice of some parents who let their biological children to go to school but deny those of their relatives, brought to live with them from remote areas a similar chance. Rev. Townsend observed that such children were often poorly clothed and subjected to unacceptable forms of labor. She called on parents to insist on a proper and acceptable dress code for their children.
The outspoken preacher also blamed state actors, such as the Government for not doing much to provide basic social services for the children. This, she observed had led to children not going to school instead loitering in the villages and streets or spending long hours in video clubs. The Service was climaxed by prayers for the children and parents, and sharing of soft drinks.
The children and parents were impressed by the cooperation exhibited before and during the implementation of the project. Additionally, the level of ignorance observed on the part of the children and parents during the various activities on the issue of VAC and their reactions after the events clearly pointed to a need for awareness creation. However the impact of the project would continue to be monitored through hosting a series of activities on VAC.