The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Broken bodies, healing hearts

After a bloody war, Lutherans bring hope to amputees in Sierra Leone

They lack fingers, hands, legs, ears and other body parts. The inhabitants of this Freetown refugee camp survived Sierra Leone's civil war. But many carry deeper wounds that Lutherans, through the work of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone, hope to heal.

Thousands lost limbs in January 1999, when Sierra Leone's 9-year war culminated in the Revolutionary United Front's attack on Freetown, the capital. Led by Foday Sankoh, who was arrested in May, rebels killed, abducted, raped and mutilated thousands of civilians.

Dead bodies, with limbs missing or dangling, rotted in the streets. Most victims couldn't cross the front lines to get to the main hospitals on the west side of Freetown, which was still controlled by the Nigerian-led ECOMOG army fighting in support of Sierra Leone's government.

"I was so afraid," says Aminatu Kargbo, who still has all her body parts — a miracle in this place.

Her voice muted in shame, Kargbo describes the day she couldn't hold Mariatu, her daughter. She does not cry. It's been eight months since rebels attacked her family, and she is all cried out.

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