9 March 2009

Liberia: Women's Mass Action For Peace and 'Pray the Devil Back to Hell' Screening at Samuel K Doe Stadium

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Today, while Colloquium workshops continue, another historic event is part of the program.  Tonight the film Pray the Devil Back to Hell  - about the Liberian women's peace movement responsible for ending the brutal 14-year civil war - will be shown.  This will be the first time it is being screened for the public in Liberia.  Radio stations have been promoting this for the last several days and organizers hope many Liberians will come to the Samuel K. Doe Stadium.

Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will present awards to representative of the women who organized the amazingly powerful, courageous and ultimately successful effort to bring peace to their country.  I will photograph and video these proceedings and post on this blog later. This morning the women – dressed in white, as they did during their entire campaign – marched into the stadium to the cheers and udulating of their global sisters.  I was told the electric energy was palpable but, as I could not be there, I will try to get photos from my friends who were and post those as well. UPDATE: I was UTTERLY inspired to be in the stadium with the market women of Liberia who brought peace to their country! I posted  pictures until after midnite last night, but I see somehow they are not showing; will try again later. [Later update: pictures now posted below]

Here is the opening of press release on the film: "Pray the Devil Back to Hell is the extraordinary story of a small band of Liberian women who came together in the midst of a bloody civil war, took on the violent warlords and corrupt Charles Taylor regime, and won a long-awaited peace for their shattered country in 2003. As the rebel noose tightened upon Monrovia, and peace talks faced collapse, the women of Liberia – Christian and Muslims united - formed a thin but unshakable white line between the opposing forces, and successfully demanded an end to the fighting– armed only with white T-shirts and the courage of their convictions. In one remarkable scene, the women barricaded the site of stalled peace talks in Ghana, and announced they would not move until a deal was done. Faced with eviction, they invoked the most powerful weapon in their arsenal – threatening to remove their clothes. It worked. The women of Liberia are living proof that moral courage and non-violent resistance can succeed, even where the best efforts of traditional diplomacy have failed."

The press kit on the film's website has much more detailed information. Following are excerpts from longer bios about some of the leaders of this movement featured in the film and I have added weblinksto the organizations of these women - or news stories about them - I found on Internet.

Leymah Gbowee joined the Woman in Peacebuilding Network (WIPNET) and brought women of Christian Churches together into the Christian Women's Initiative and then formed a coalition with the women in the Muslim organizations in Monrovia and eventually Liberian Mass Action for Peace came into being.

Etweda "Sugars" Cooper founded the Liberia Women Initiative to advocate for disarmament and free and fair elections, and also to bring pressure to bear on stakeholders for the inclusion of women in negotiating a settlement of the Liberian conflict. Liberia Women Initiative www.cddghana.org/ngod.asp?ng=44

Asatu Bah Kenneth, a police officer for 25 years and president of the Liberia Female Law Enforcement Association, Asatu created the Liberian Muslim Women's Organization. Liberian Mass Action for Peace came into being when the two organizations joined.
Vaiba Flomo, working with the Lutheran church's trauma healing program brought the faith groups together with the message: "Does the bullet know Christian from Muslim?"

Etty Weah, was one of many women who wore white and sat on the field day in and day out. Rain or shine. Bullets or no bullets. She believed strength in numbers would make their voices heard.

Janet Johnson Bryant, a journalist working for the Catholic radio station Radio Veritas, hosted a radio show about women's issues and covered the Presidential Palace.

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