FrontPageAfrica (Monrovia)

26 August 2014

Liberia's MPW Minister Told to Apologize to 'Disturbing' Church

Monrovia — Liberia's controversial Minister of Public Works has reportedly been told by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to openly apologize to Mother Oretha Taylor, the spiritual head of the Living Prayer Evangelistic Ministry and her congregation in the Lakpazee Community, Sinkor suburb of Monrovia.

She ran into trouble with the church recently when she accused the Church of disturbing the peace of her residence with its worship.

Minister Weeks reportedly entered the Living Prayer Evangelistic Ministry and disrupted the service during a recent worship by seizing the pastor's microphone and smashing it on the floor with a warning to the congregation to stop disturbing her. The Minister also reportedly cautioned the church to tune down its public address system used during worship because it disturbs the Lakpazee area community.

Executive Mansion sources told FrontPageAfrica Tuesday that Minister Weeks, escorted by Rev. Jervis Witherspoon, spiritual advisor to the President, was instructed by the President to meet with the Council of Churches and offer a verbal and written apology to be published in daily newspapers. The Minister was also reportedly ordered to visit the church where she disturbed and apologize to the congregation.

The Heritage newspaper reported last week that the Minister ordered a pickup load of Police officers from the Liberia National Police (LNP) led by senior Officer Prince David or code-name 117 to warn the Church to stop disturbing her in its service. "Minister Weeks was seen at the Airfield Police Station otherwise known as Salem, apparently to get the Police to go to the Church and implement her orders," the paper reported.

Mother Taylor, the church's spiritual leader has shied away from addressing the issue, but FrontPageAfrica has learned that the church has since filed a formal complaint to the Ministry of Justice. This is not the first time that a member of the Sirleaf administration has run into trouble with the clergy.

In 2009, then Monrovia City Mayor Mary Broh ran into trouble with Muslims during a Task Force operation near the Benson Street Mosque, which resulted into a standoff between residents of the area, including Muslim worshippers and a Special Presidential Task Force set up to help clean the city.

The incident prompted President Sirleaf to escort Broh to the mosque, a few days later to offer an apology. Madam Broh went on to express regrets for the inconveniences worshippers may have experienced during the clean up exercise by the Force. The President told Muslims at the time that her visit to the Mosque was intended to reinforce the message and reconfirm her Government's commitment to the promotion of peace and unity in the country.

The clergy in Liberia have been busy in the past few mornings holding extra services and praying for the dead Ebola outbreak to leave Liberia. President Sirleaf on August 6 declared three days of fasting and prayer, "to seek God's mercy" with regards to the Ebola outbreak that has so far killed more than 300 persons in Liberia and over half of the more than 2,600 people who have been infected. The World Health Organization says an unprecedented 240 health care workers have been infected.

The President went as far as declaring recently that fasting and prayers can help turn the Ebola virus disease crisis into tremendous opportunities, including one of unity, reconciliation, and deepening our faith. "With God's grace and with his blessings we can turn this crisis into opportunities," the Liberian leader said, adding, "an opportunity for unity, an opportunity for reconciliation, an opportunity for healing, an opportunity for helping, an opportunity for humility, and an opportunity to deepen our faith."

Besides her disturbance at the church, Weeks has been heavily criticized for delaying a lot of road projects in the country amid strained ties with local contractors. Prior to the Ebola outbreak, Weeks was under immense pressure from several groups calling for resignation due to the slow pace of road and development projects across the country.

Key among her frailties was an email exchange sent to the Minister by Mrs. Maki Okusa, Head of Office/Project Formulation Advisor Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Liberia Field Office, who expressed frustration and had to plead with Weeks to meet with her in order to finalize arrangements for the commencement of the Somalia Drive road. The official became frustrated when Weeks put off a key meeting to finalize the deal on the project.

"Minister, my biggest concern is the further delay of this project. This is a special project requested by Madam President. Due to the delay of RAP implementation, the project is already delayed while the Expectation of the people is getting higher and higher.

We are already in March and the rainy season will be coming soon. As you know, if we miss the current dry season, we have to postpone the commencement until later this year, which causes the huge delay to the entire schedule. This will be a big disappointment for people and also for Madam President," said the email from Okusa.

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