Guest / Limited Access /

Any moment now American Marines may wade ashore in Liberia's port capital of Monrovia with orders to stabilize what has become a cruel civil war with devastating consequences for the nation's 3 million inhabitants.

A unified chorus of world leaders, including George W. Bush, has called upon Liberian President Charles Taylor to relinquish leadership of the war-torn nation. The world community is hopeful that Taylor's exile would open a window of opportunity to negotiate some measure of peace for a land that has known only intermittent calm during the last 15 years.

At first Liberia's conflict recalls the broken record of African intertribal violence. Then again, this West African coastal nation also boasts a unique and fascinating history of African-American oligarchic rule, syncretic secret societies, groundbreaking missionaries, and ill-fated gold mining ventures bankrolled by American televangelists. In order to understand what the Marines will encounter when they step ashore, a little context will explain why this conflict succumbs to, yet simultaneously transcends, the stereotype of African tribal wars.

Liberia traces its official state history to 1822 when freed African-American slaves immigrated to the West African coastline. By 1847 they drafted a constitution and launched the first independent state in non-Arab Black Africa. The freedmen modeled their government on the United States and adopted the name Liberia, which is Latin for "place of freedom."

But civics wasn't all they learned during their years in North America. The Liberian founding fathers were composed of Protestant ministers who created their nation as a Christian state with laws explicitly crafted using Christian principles. However, the constitution also ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
Tags:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Current Issue
Subscriber Access Only Reply All
Responses to our January/February issue via letters, tweets, and Facebook posts.
RecommendedKidnapped Samaritan’s Purse Workers Freed Amid South Sudan Famine
Kidnapped Samaritan’s Purse Workers Freed Amid South Sudan Famine
(UPDATED) Eight staff members found safe and relocated.
TrendingRussia’s Plan to Ban Jehovah’s Witnesses Puts Evangelicals in a Tight Spot
Russia’s Plan to Ban Jehovah’s Witnesses Puts Evangelicals in a Tight Spot
Group gives Protestants competition for souls, but also an ally on religious freedom.
Editor's PickFrom Kuyper to Keller: Why Princeton’s Prize Controversy Is So Ironic
From Kuyper to Keller: Why Princeton’s Prize Controversy Is So Ironic
Former winner explains how the seminary honor that once brought the Reformed community together is now splitting it.
Christianity Today
Liberia's Troubled Past—and Present
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

July 2003

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.