How wonderful it was to wake up to the news that three women were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this year: Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; Liberian peace activist Leyma Gbowee, and a democracy advocate from Yemen, Tawakkul Karman.
Of the three, I was particularly gratified to see the two women from Liberia recognized. It took me back to my time at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 2009, where I first viewed the documentary, “Pray the Devil Back to Hell.” This powerful, amazing film tells the story of the Christian and Muslim women in Liberia who came together, organized, and facilitated an end to the terrible civil war that took place there between the military dictator, Charles Taylor, and the rebel warlords who had come together to try and oust him from power. The atrocities on both sides were unspeakable, and the entire nation was terrorized. The women finally had had enough, and under the leadership of Gbowee, they met together at her church, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Monrovia, to form the Christian Women’s Peace Initiative. Soon, they were joined by Muslim women, who wanted to work with them for peace. Over the course of two years, these women prayed, demonstrated, and laid their lives on the line to push for peace and democracy in Liberia. The happy ending came with the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2005–the first woman ever elected to hold the highest office in an African nation. If you can find this film, I highly recommend it–it’s an amazing story, and a great reminder of how faithful action in the world really can make a difference; and how religion really matters in the lives of individuals and a community. [Incidentally, it concludes back at St. Peter’s Lutheran, with the celebration of a Mother’s Day service in 2007.]