New Democrat (Monrovia)

14 February 2013

Liberia: Saluting Archbishop Francis, Icon of Peace and Justice

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During one of the multitude of honours showered on him at home and abroad, Archbishop Michael Francis warned Liberians about the interplay of reconciliation, peace and justice when he received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award on 22 November 1999 in Washington, D.C.

"To achieve genuine and authentic peace, there must be reconciliation...but to have reconciliation and therefore peace there must be justice. If there is no justice, if the fundamental rights of our people are not respected, it will be near impossible for genuine peace and reconciliation to come about in our country. Faith-based organizations can and should play a pivotal role," he then stressed in a presentation.

This warning must reverberate in the psyche of all Liberians who love peace and justice, virtues that remained endeared to His Grace Archbishop Emeritus Michael K. Francis as evidenced by his immense contribution over the years toward the continuous fight for social justice in our country.

Always smiling but unwavering as he took on tyrants and their agents, the Archbishop was and remains an inspiration for those who have been consistent against social evils and uncompromising against the disciples of evil and disorder.

Now aged 77 and unable to physically continue his crusading championing of justice regardless of the target, Archbishop Emeritus Francis has remained a rare personality in a society with fluid commitment to ideals.

The Archbishop stood high above frailties that others could not resist. While some churchmen and Moslems were honoring dictators, he drew his sword of relentless justice against tyrants.

As some staged lavish prayers for the longevity of debased tyranny because of the short-lived rewards received, he was asking the Almighty Lord to redeem the people from their grip.

His contribution to social justice saw many forms, including the establishment of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) that, under his watch, became an unbending forum against spreading human rights abuses, systematically challenging which the JPC earned respect.

At this crucial time in Liberia's search for national voices of justice and reason fast disappearing, the Archbishop's voice of hope and guidance, silenced by ill health, is greatly missed. The rare solidarity and trust he fortified justice with is irreplaceable. His confidence against evil and the inspiration for victory assured are qualities few can match.

With humility and deep respect for this ally against injustice, we once again join in honouring a man of exemplary icon

in a society with vanishing icons of justice as we resound the first line of one of his favorite hymns:

What A Friend We Have In Jesus...

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