History is repeating itself in West Africa's Liberia. Six years after the start of a costly civil war, reckless ethnic killing and looting have again overrun the capital, Monrovia. Refugees are moving over the borders into neighboring West African countries, and a second major evacuation of foreign nationals has been carried out by the U.S. military. Caught up in the mayhem, churches have been hard hit, although relief and reconstruction activities are set to continue, with local pastors cautiously taking the lead.

An estimated 150,000 people have been killed since the 1989 attack by Charles Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebels from neighboring Ivory Coast. A long line of peace initiatives concluding with an agreement last August have failed to bring an end to the war.

The latest violence began April 6, when Liberia's shaky transitional state council tried to arrest "General" Roosevelt Johnson, leader of the United Liberation Movement in Liberia faction, on murder charges. Many American missionaries and relief-and-development workers have fled Monrovia unharmed (CT, May 20, 1996, p. 78).

As in other African countries plagued by civil strife, such as Rwanda, Burundi, and Somalia, the toll of the fighting has been devastating on the general population, including Christians. Food and clean water are in short supply in many areas of the capital, and there has been widespread concern about the spread of disease, namely cholera.

"The Christian community is totally disillusioned and quite angry with everything," Brian Johnson, World Relief's Liberia director, told CT from Sierra Leone, where he is working after being evacuated.

According to Johnson, the leadership for the Association of Evangelicals in Liberia ...

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