ETV Project Returns to Liberia for Peace Hut Dedication
Apr 21, 2011
Through the generous support of the Frost Foundation, the ETV Project journeyed to Liberia in March to tend seeds first planted when we buried an Earth Treasure Vase in Voinjama, Lofa County, on the 2009 winter solstice. Joyfully, we returned to participate in the community dedication of a Peace Hut constructed at the site where the ETV is buried.
Some years ago, the women of Liberia, Christian and Muslim alike, came together in prayer and nonviolent resistance to end the civil war that had shattered the nation. They founded a movement for peace and reconciliation, grounded in their moral conviction and courage, that continues today. In December 2009, we carried an ETV to the hardest fought region of the country through the auspices of everyday gandhis, an organization working with ex-combatants, child soldiers, women and indigenous elders to bring healing and build peace.
Protected by the roots of a sacred Kola tree and watered by the prayers of peace builders, the Liberian ETV has been at work for more than a year now. In remembrance of their intentions, the local community built benches around the roots of the tree to protect the site. Then, they decided that a Peace Hut was necessary to provide a place to gather, dialogue and pray to keep the spirit of the ETV alive.
With your help, the ETV Global Healing Project raised the funds needed to build the hut…and it was done!
Cynthia Jurs and Open Way Sangha member Burke Denman traveled to Liberia to help dedicate the Peace Hut recently completed in Suwomai (Telewoyan) Village. Once there, we were hosted by our friends Christian Bethelson, William (“Uncle Jake”) Jacobs, and other members of everyday gandhis.
Formerly known as “palaver” huts, these traditional council houses have been officially re-named “peace huts.” (“Palaver” means conflict.) Advocated by the Liberian Truth & Reconciliation Commission, peace huts can be found all over Liberia. More than a nice idea, the huts draw upon a generations-old means to reconcile the wounds of war and solve conflicts independently of the courts. These structures are literally open to all sides equally and provide a neutral meeting place where members of a community can hear and impart justice. In this context, the win-lose rulings of corrupt courts can transform into win-win solutions for many civil cases.
The women continue to show the way to lasting peace in Liberia. We met this woman, among many others who are a part of 13 groups from the bush that hold weekly vigils in a peace hut.
As a result of planting our prayers in the soil of that war-torn land, the ETV Peace Hut was dedicated on March 27, 2011.
Christian Bethelson served as Master of Ceremonies for the event, which included local dignitaries; Christian, Muslim and traditional leaders; dancers and drummers; shared food and much fun.
Many received Certificates of Appreciation from the ETV Project, Burke honored village elders with flowers he picked that morning, and a special dance was performed to invite the ancestors by healer and diviner Dormowa Mahwen.
For the dedication, the sound of the bell rang out in the hut, calling us back to our true selves — an invitation to remember our capacity for dwelling peacefully in the present moment. Quiet reverence then gave way to exuberant singing and dancing!
The Peace Efforts Flower and Expand
During our time in Liberia, we learned that Telewoyan-Suwomai Village does not have clean, running water. Paramount Chief Telewoyan’s family requested our help for a well. The deputy superintendent (Lt. governor), the county inspector (and chair of the conflict resolution committee), and the city mayor all agreed to assist and Burke committed to help raise the money to accomplish it. May the water of life flow clean and clear in the traditional village that is home to the ETV Peace Hut!
Our hosts, Jake and Bethelson are currently collaborating with other peace-builders at the Center for Peace and Justice Studies in the town of Ganta.
We were invited to visit Morris, Ruth and Sherry, meet the mayor and city councilors, and discuss their request to create another Peace Hut. The dream is to involve ex-combatants in building peace through the construction of a hut, heal the trauma of war, and facilitate independent resolution of old land disputes that continue to threaten the stability of a region close to the border of both Guinea and volatile Ivory Coast.
The community is eager to do the project and will be contributing the land, design and labor while the ETV Project will raise the funds to accomplish it.
The unrest in Ivory Coast has threatened Liberia’s fragile peace as more than 100,000 refugees have sought safety in Liberia since the fighting began in Ivory Coast last November. We visited the Bahn refugee camp that is expecting to house 15,000 people. The impressive infrastructure already includes a garden, nursery, shade-park and the use of fuel-efficient eco-stoves made by the refugees themselves that reduce deforestation by 65%.
We were especially grateful to be reunited with Jake and Bethelson, who are so dedicated to building peace among young people and former fighters, and with our wonderful cameraman, Harper Karmon, who also is a trained social worker and peace-builder. It was a blessing to have as our driver a former member of the “young child unit” during the war. Moses, who is now in the process of rebuilding his life, became a peacemaker on this trip, intervening in roadside arguments to resolve conflicts and invite understanding. His greatest wish is to go to school, and Burke has stepped forward to support Moses’ education.
Theresa Honnah, below, is an orphaned refugee from Sierra Leone who now lives in Voinjama, runs a day care center and volunteers at the local radio station as a budding journalist. At 22, Theresa is confident and wise, informing us that she intends to be the first woman president of Sierra Leone! We have connected her to the World Pulse online community, which is dedicated to empowering indigenous women to become leaders, and are offering our support for her education as well. She recorded the entire Peace Hut dedication ceremony and had it on the airwaves the very next day!
A little goes a long ways in Liberia:
$3000 builds a Peace Hut
$5000 digs a village well
$1500 buys Bethelson a motorbike for easy transport on terrible roads to build peace among ex-combatants
$250 contributes to the education of one young person for a year
Thank you to all our friends in Liberia for your commitment to peace and your efforts to sustain it! And thank you, friends of the ETV Global Healing Project, for helping accomplish this work through your prayers, meditations and generous contributions!