Lutheran Church Massacre Survivors Want Museum for War Victims

By: Laymah Kollie

Liberia-July 30,2023: As the establishment of war crimes court continues to drag, survivors of the July 29,1990 Lutheran Church massacre are calling on government of Liberia and the international community to build a museum in memorializing families that were killed during the incident.

The Massacre Survivors plead came following a memorial service held at the St. Peter’s Lutheran Church(Where the atrocities took place) on July 30,2023 in remembrance of their fallen heroes.

On Sunday night July 29,1990, a contingent of soldiers believed to be members of the Arm Forces of Liberia invaded the Lutheran church compound killing over six hundred(600) women, men, and children who had gone to seek refuge at the church.

Speaking on behalf of the Lutheran Church Massacre Survivors Association(LUMASA) the Executive Director Marcus P. Quoigoah I, called on the government of Liberia to exhumed bodies of victims that were buried in mass grave at the church and rebury at a particular site in order to ensure respect and dignity to the dead and give families the opportunity to fully pay tributes to their loved ones.

The Survivors believe that the museum will not only serve as a symbol of healing and reconciliation for war survivors but also plays a reminder role to the younger generation of Liberia for the maintenance of peace and stability.

“On behalf of the survivors of this massacre, I respectfully request that the remains of those buried in mass grave on the grounds of the church be exhumed and reburied for proper memorialization. It is a profound tragedy that these victims were denied the dignity and respect that they deserve in death. Therefore the outmost urgency is required to rectify this injustice. As head of the survivors group of this massacre, I strongly advocate for a memorial site or a site of consciousness, such as a museum, to eulogize the lives lost. The cardinal reason why proper memorialization is crucial for our loved ones buried in mass grave is that it serves as a means of healing and reconciliation for the families and communities affected. It also serves as reminder for future generations of our collective responsibility to ensure that such atrocities do not reoccur”.

Their quest is comes based on the delay of justice to survivor and victims of the 14-years civil crisis as perpetrators are yet to face the court.

Marcus stressed that their stories have not been fully remembered as many think it is still a myth. He noted that the society has abandoned war victims, leaving them to survive along when they have not fully healed from the wounds.
“The issue is not with erasing these memories , it is about how this very society such mayhem took place in is able to erase us from the newspaper front pages and lock us in a 33yr capsule. The issue is not with us losing our night sleep, no! It is how the history books show no account of the pain nor the coward who scrapped us off a fair shot at life.
Many think we are myth, some even deny our stories, but that’s ok. We have been left properly hidden without a race or perhaps a story too bad to be told so let it rot in the belle of darkness while leaving a bundle of devastation and despair that continue to haunt us to this day. We live with cementeries on our bodies as every bullet mark reminds us of how many of our loved ones we lost to the will of men to the minds of the devil himself. In the very pool of heartbreak, disappointment, and faint hopes, we share lingering wounds , unhealed scars, unrelenting pain, and the deepest agony that continue to be experienced by us”.

“For the past 33yrs, we have been abandoned and left to grapple with our challenges be ourselves. Our physical injuries, financial burdens, emotional pain and psychological trauma have been ignored and overlooked with impunity . We are told to pick ourselves up even with our amputated arms and legs, we are expected to run at life again even with this unfair odd imposed on us. We are dying the death we survived 33yrs ago without the screams in our ears this time. Where is justice? Where is fairness? Where is the dream we saw with excitement when we didn’t know the meaning of the word massacre?
Our lives have been stagnant, and progress have been painfully slow, as we have been unable to access medical or psychological care that we so desperately need. We are left to navigate through life with untreated wounds and unhealed trauma , enduring nightmare of stonewalling attention to justice , unfulfilled promises, ignored pleas and deaf ears”, the Survivors’ head added.

Additionally, in building the museum for victims of the massacre, the survivors also recommended that the Armed Forces of Liberia takes full responsibility of creating initiatives that will better the lives of them.

He stressed that the involvement of the Army in this process will show case its ability and desire to protect lives of every Liberian. He mentioned medical assistance, counseling and other essential support needed to help safeguard survivors.

“Recognized that there has been a change and restructuring of the Arm Forces of Liberia, transforming them into a force for good. It is with is recognition that we call on the current army to shoulder responsibility for the crimes the Institution committed. We believe that it is of outmost significance that the army, as a symbol of protection and justice take the lead in acknowledging the pain and suffering endured by victims. It is now time that the Armed Forces of Liberia imitate the good role played by the Rwandan army. In the aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide , the national army of Rwanda took a proactive step to restore the dignity of victims and survivors. Through its army initiative, the army constructed homes and other facilities. This initiative was aimed at identifying with victims and survivors of the genocide and alleviating some of their suffering. By the end of army initiative more than 5,000 houses and other infrastructures were constructed.
Today, survivors desperately require medical assistance, Counseling and other form of support to cope with enduring aftermath of this tragedy. By providing these essential services, the army would demonstrate it’s commitment to tolerate inclusion and the safeguarding of the entire citizenry. This gesture could not only bring solace to the survivors but also reassure the nation that the Arm Forces “ a force for good “ are dedicated to protecting the rights and well-being of all individuals , irrespective of their past experiences”

The head however, called on the international community to support their calls and help ensure they(survivors) get justice through the court of law.
“We call on the International Community, our ally Nations, and the dignitaries present to stand with us in our pursuit for justice . We implore you to assist us in holding the perpetrators accountable for their actions and bringing them before a competent court of jurisdiction. Only by ensuring that justice is served can we begin to heal as a society and restore our faith in humanity”

However, speaking on behalf of the Lutheran Church, Bishop Lewis Mackay urged the church to wake up and fight for justice.

He believes Liberia is a country that was established by the church; as such, the church should rise and stand its ground for justice.
“ The Church founded this Country living in the glory of God, since the church is the one that established this country, the church must stand up, the church must rise up, the church must be committed to the fight for justice. We must reemphasized the issues of justice, the church can not spiritualize the issues of justice, the church cannot pass the ball on its shoulder for the issue of justice we must ensure”.

Also, representing the civil society community at the occasion, Mr. Hassan Bility admonished survivors of their strength and power they possessed. He continued that if Justice and accountability is not served, survivors will not be satisfied in their request.

He also called on Government of Liberia to take appropriate actions. “I want the survivors to understand first that you are giants on whose shoulders we all stand today. No matter what we do the Lutheran church survivors will not be fully satisfied that those who died, their men and women will not be satisfied until an accountability mechanism be put in place inside Liberia, on Liberia territory. The word accountability is what we want, no country can be democratically sustainable without giving justice as its full ground”.

At the same time, US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission, Mr. Joel F Maybury assured survivors of the United States’ support towards them. He told survivors to entrust power into the hands of credible and transparent and accountable people as they will lead the change to finding Justice.

“As America, we have the duty to remember, we cannot forget. My government is following cases. The accountability will be led by those trusted to power , service and everlasting justice the people of Liberia deserve”.

Since the climax of the 14yrs civil war in Liberia, survivors and war victims continue to cry for justice. Civil Society Actors and citizenry also plead for perpetrators of these atrocities to be brought before the court of jurisdictions but seems unavailable. War and economic crimes court establishment in Liberia have been downplay by past and present regime of government.

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