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Liberian pastor: 'We need to forgive'

"We've survived almost eight years of bloody war," says Joseph Allison, pastor of St. Peter Lutheran Church, Monrovia, Liberia. "Now we need to stop blaming each other and get on with life. We have to forgive the fighters. Our pastors now are preaching confession, forgiveness and reconciliation."

Allison is spending six months in the United States visiting his three adult children and ELCA congregations--and resting.

"My children sent for me," he says, "and members of my congregation wanted me to come here and rest."

The war years weren't kind to Allison. His congregation was the site of the 1990 massacre of 800 people. His home was completely looted several times, as recently as April. And Allison recalls he thought his life was over when a fighter put a gun to his ear.

But Liberia held elections, and hopes for recovery grow. "The churches are packed now," Allison says. "We have four parishes and seven preaching points in Monrovia. Some Sundays at St. Peter I commune more than 900 people.

"The bones of those massacred are buried in the church yard. And when there's money available, we'll build a monument. We don't know who the 800 were. We're asking people to send the names of those they know died there to be put on the monument."

Allison thanks the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for all its gifts, prayers and support. "You've helped us so much," he says, also citing several needs for the Lutheran Church in Liberia ranging from motorcycles and portable generators to typewriters and pianos.

All resources were destroyed or stolen, Allison says. With the country's infrastructure also gone, much rebuilding needs to be done "from the ground up," he adds. "But I know as long as God spared our lives, God will not leave us."


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