13 December 2011 Oslo, Norway [Geir Olav Lisle; tedNEWS] Nobel Peace Prize Winner Leymah Gbowee has provided ADRA Norway and ADRA Liberia with new perspectives on the loss of our people in Liberia back in 2003. Last Friday before the Nobel ceremony Leymah Gbowee and Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf set aside their time and met with ADRA Norway staff, ADRA Liberia Country Director Emmanuel George and the wife and daughter of Kåre Lund, who was killed in Liberia in 2003. Gbowee had a very special story to tell. She met Kåre Lund and the Liberian workers in the field on the same day they were killed. They met at the same checkpoint, with the same soldiers. That evening, when she arrived in Monrovia, she heard news reports that the ADRA workers were missing.
Sunday night was the Nobel Peace Concert and the three recipients of this year's Nobel Peace Prize gave thanks for the recognition they had received from the Norwegian Nobel Committee. The Yemeni activist Tawakkol Karman gave the crowd in Oslo Spektrum a lesson in street protest: 'Together We Shall Achieve all our dreams .... Fighting corruption, ... .. Becoming Global Citizens'!
ADRA Norway has a special history with Liberia and the peace movement behind the Liberian women who, this weekend, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. ADRA has been present in Liberia for decades. During the civil war in the early 2000's ADRA Norway and ADRA Liberia worked together on an emergency operation for Liberians who returned home after being displaced in Ivory Coast. During a trip to monitor the progress of the project, ADRA Norway's country director Kåre Lund, the Director of ADRA Liberia and their driver were shot and killed by “government soldiers”. The details of this incident remain unclear, but it is known that these soldiers without discipline, were looking for valuables for their own gain. The civil war in Liberia had thus claimed the lives of three people who had devoted their lives to save others. The families of these men - they were all husbands, fathers and brothers - suffered irreplaceable loss of beloved family members and ADRA lost some of our best employees.
Last Friday myself, along with the widow and daughter of Kåre Lund and country director of ADRA Liberia, had the pleasure of meeting the two Nobel Prize Winners from Liberia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee. Our request to meet the Nobel Peace Prize winners was not only to congratulate them but to offer them an opportunity to meet Christel Lund, Kåre’s widow, and insure ADRA’s support and continued commitment to Liberia despite the events of 2003.
As a board leader, I was prepared to present the ADRA work in Liberia and hear Nobel Peace Prize winners present their achievements, political victories and visions for Liberia's future. But I was emphatically put in place by these women. The meeting turned out to be rather a close and personal encounter between women that in different ways had struggled for peace in Liberia. It turned out that both President Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee were well acquainted with the events that had shaken ADRA and the families of our men back in 2003.
In the meeting President Johnson Sirleaf explained that the killing of ADRA staff and other similar events was carried out by coked up-soldiers with neither money nor discipline. She told of a very difficult year for Liberia, affecting also all people who visited and worked within the country. Liberians killed their own people, raped their women and children, and attacked those who tried to help.
But it was Leymah Gbowee who gave us new perspectives on the loss of our employees. Her amazing story was that she and her staff had met the three ADRA workers in the field the same day they were killed. They had met at the same checkpoint and had been addressed by the same soldiers. That evening, when she arrived in Monrovia, she heard the news reports that the ADRA workers were missing.
Gbowee then expressed that the horrible killing of ADRA workers was a direct inspiration that culminated her work as a social worker and caused her to sincerely devoted all her strength to work for peace and women's rights. The killing of aid workers from ADRA gave peace efforts a new momentum and this inspired peace movement was recognized through the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo City Hall this weekend.
These loved ones will never be replaced. But the story of President Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee gave us a regained faith in the work of ADRA – that what we do is important! This past Friday we took confirmation knowing that they died doing meaningful work that meant so much to so many. "This does not make the loss less painful, but it creates a greater pride for the job he did," writes the daughter of Kåre Lund, Annika, in her blog.
Tawakkol Karman’s lesson in street protest is real: 'Together we shall achieve our dreams'. It is simply a privilege that ADRA was able to meet these strong women. Those who change the world, one life at a time.
You can read more about the incident with ADRA-workers in Liberia in Leymah Gbowees book 'Mighty ask our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayers and Sex Changed a Nation at War'.
A short excerpt from the book follows: "On the way back to Monrovia, we encountered three men who worked for the Adventist Development and Relief Agency. They’d been in the field, too, and told us they were going to get something to eat before heading home. At the border of Nimba and Grand Gedeh Counties, we came to a roadblock manned by Taylor’s soldiers. Trucks like ours, that belonged to nonprofits, were supposed to get waved through, and we’d never had a problem before. But this day, they stopped us. “Come outside the truck!” one of them shouted. “Put everything down!” Music was blaring. The men were smoking weed and their eyes were red. “Everything out!” We had put our bags in the back of our pickup and covered them with plastic. We tried to hurry to untie everything, then open the bags, remove items one by one and spread them out on a large table. My heart was pounding. Thank God I didn’t put the money in the car, was all I could think. We would be safe, unless . . . I was the only woman there; rape was always a possibility. Finally, they waved us on. At seven that night, when I was home, I heard a news bulletin: an Adventist car had been found burned near the border of Nimba and Grand Gedeh Counties; the staff was missing. A few days later, the bodies of the men we’d met were found. We later learned they’d had money in the car. The last checkpoint they’d passed was the one where we’d been searched. The soldiers there reported that “rebels had attacked.” I had come that close to never seeing my children again. How much more clearly could God have said to me, “This job isn’t worth it—leave and do what you really want”? Within a week, I resigned from the Trauma Healing office. Occasional consulting work with other social service agencies brought in a little cash, and Tunde provided for the children. I would get by. My work with WIPNET was what mattered now."
Leymah Gbowee, Mighty be our Powers, kap 12, Kindle edition. [tedNEWS]
Photo: Tor Tjeransen
In picture Christel and Annika Lund meeting Liberian leaders, from left: Geir Olav Lisle ADRA Norway, Emmanuel George ADRA Liberia, Christel Lund, Annika Lund and Chandra Baier ADRA Norway.
tedNEWS Staff: Miroslav Pujic, director; Deana Stojkovic, editor
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