Churchgoers nationwide are cheering this week over the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winners. The three new Nobel laureates were chosen “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” Why are churchgoers cheering in particular? Because along with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the well-known president of Liberia, and the lesser known Tawakel Karman of Yemen—the trio includes Leymah Gbowee, a central figure in an inspiring documentary that has been sweeping across the U.S. through one congregation after another: “Pray the Devil Back to Hell.” (We highly recommend that you jump to Amazon and order a copy of the DVD, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, from Amazon now.)
Inspiring Story of Leymah Gbowee
FROM BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS
A NEW BOOK BY DANIEL BUTTRY
You may be reading front-page news stories about Leymah Gbowee’s courageous movement to bring peace to her battle-torn homeland. But, most newspaper and news magazine stories tend to downplay the role of Gbowee’s faith, which is shown so powerfully in the documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell.
If you are inspired by her example, you also will want to read the new book, Blessed Are the Peacemakers, which places her story among more than 80 dramatic stories of creative men and women who have risked their lives to bring our world closer to peace.
Here is a brief excerpt from the new book to show you why you’ll want to get a copy and read the whole story of Leymah Gbowee …
No peace talks had ever been so disrupted.
Two hundred women formed a blockade with their bodies, locking the negotiators inside the hotel conference room. Peace talks were being held in Accra, Ghana, to seek a settlement to the Liberian civil war. Talks had dragged on for weeks with the various warlords showing no seriousness about ending the conflict that had cost more than 200,000 lives. Then the women acted, women who had been demonstrating daily for peace in Liberia and finally had traveled to Accra. They surrounded the place where the negotiators were gathered and refused to let them out until they came up with a peace agreement. Soon the negotiators were negotiating with them, and the women set the terms for how the peace process would be handled. The women’s action changed the nature of the talks and precipitated an end to a conflict that had gone on since 1989. At their head was Leymah Gbowee.
When Leymah Gbowee was a teenager, the civil war in Liberia erupted. Charles Taylor started the war in 1989, and soon other warlords entered the fray. President Samuel Doe was killed, but the fighting continued. Taylor had his “small boys unit,” children ages 9 to 15 who were often drugged as they fought. They were notorious for their brutalities, including hacking off the limbs of civilians. As part of a peace plan, elections were held in 1997 and Charles Taylor was elected President, more out of fear that he would continue the war than out of respect or support. Fighting exploded again in 1999 with a rebel movement known as LURD, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy. In spite of the noble-sounding name, LURD forces were as brutal as Taylor’s. The rebels seized whatever they wanted. They stole, killed and raped at will. As the fighting spread, one out of three Liberians was displaced by the war.
Gbowee knew the horrors of war. She had to flee an attack on her village when she was five months pregnant, bringing her 3-year old son and 2-year old daughter with her. They had no food. She experienced the anguish of a mother with nothing to give her hungry children. Eventually, Gbowee became a social worker with an emphasis on trauma counseling. She worked with soldiers who as children had fought in Charles Taylor’s army. She saw the damage done from violence to their young lives.
As the war continued to grind down the country, Gbowee shared a dream at her home church in Monrovia. She dreamed of the women from all churches gathering together to pray for peace. From that dream the Christian Women’s Peace Initiative was born.
A Muslim woman, Asatu Bah Kenneth, inspired by Gbowee’s dream, pledged to organize the Muslim women. At first there was some difficulty bringing the Christian and Muslim women together, but the leaders said, “Can the bullet pick and choose? Does the bullet know a Christian from a Muslim?” The coming together of these women from the two main Liberian religions formed WIPNET, the Women In Peace-building Network. WIPNET leaders organized women across Liberia.
(This is just a portion of the story of Leymah Gbowee in Blessed Are the Peacemakers.)
Care to read more about Leymah Gbowee
& Blessed are the Peacemakers?
Visit the book site: At the Blessed Are the Peacemakers site, you can read the book’s introduction, learn more about the author—and see the list of more than 80 inspiring profiles included in the book.
Read a recent OurValues series featuring stories from the book: Author Daniel Buttry, an international peace negotiator for American Baptist Churches recently wrote a 5-part series about important lessons peacemakers can teach us today.
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.