Liberian United Methodists protest ritualistic killings


About 100 protesters took to the streets outside the president of Liberia’s office to condemn ritualistic killings of two young boys in Kingsville.

The Human Rights Department of The United Methodist Church led the demonstration against all forms of human rights violations and also said police need to complete the investigation into the death of a high school girl.
 
A 9-year-old boy, Elijah Porluma, and 10-year-old Thomas Kollie were both killed and their bodies mutilated, possibly for use in witchcraft or voodoo rituals, Jefferson Knight told United Methodist News. Odell Sherman, the high school student, was found at a compound belonging to a United Methodist clergyman, according to police.

“We are tired and wearied of the raping, killing, brutalization of children and women and the poor and corrupt justice system,” said Jefferson Knight, head of the church’s Human Rights Office. 

He said the church condemns such barbaric acts against God’s children and called on Liberian President George M. Weah, who is a United Methodist, to lead the government to protect the lives of the Liberian people.
 
Gathered before the United Methodist Church in Liberia central office, the placard-carrying protesters chanted: “We want justice and stop killing our girls and children.” 

Knight told United Methodist News that the July 2 protest was prompted by the slow pace of the Justice Ministry in proceeding with the investigations.
 
“We want the government to act fast, knowing that justice delayed is justice denied,” he said.
 
Knight said the church calls on the Christian community and the general public to peacefully stage protest rallies in various part of Monrovia to ask that government officials ensure the perpetrators of the killings are brought to justice.
 
In addition to citing the deaths of the two boys, Knight said those responsible for the gang-rape and murder of Odell Sherman must be brought to justice.

Sherman was found in the Rev. Emmanuel Giddings’ compound in the Dwazon community in May. According to reports and other sources, the United Methodist clergyman indicated that when he found Sherman, he took her to the hospital. She was pronounced dead after a few minutes. Giddings denied any involvement in her death and has not been arrested. Some members of her family and the community are not satisfied with the investigation.

Giddings told United Methodist News she was not found in the compound that he lives in, but a compound he owns that is still under construction.

“I was called in because I owned the facility, I therefore decided to take her to the hospital,” he said. Giddings said he, too, wants the government to speed up the investigation so that his name and the names of others connected to this incident will be cleared and those responsible will be brought to justice.

Giddings said the Liberia National Police told him that he was not a suspect in the case, a claim confirmed by a police spokesperson, H. Moses Carter.
 
A statement from Liberian Bishop Samuel J Quire’s office said church officials are praying for a speedy resolution to the investigation.
 
"As a church, we are in prayers with the Rev. Giddings, the students' community to which the late Odell Sherman belongs, and her family," the statement said. “The mysterious death of the late Odell Sharman in May 2019 needs to be speedily investigated and the findings reported to the family and the Liberian people.”

A two-page protest statement from the church Human Rights Office demanded action from national leaders, the government and other stakeholders. “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly,” the statement said, quoting Leviticus 19:15.

Carter denied that police are moving too slowly. 

“We don't want to arrest the wrong people and imprison them," he said. He said government law officials are working to ensure that the police proceed judiciously in investigating these human rights violations. "Let the protesters know that what is not rightly done, is not done at all," he said.

Carter said the government is now waiting for Sherman’s family to bring a pathologist who will examine the body for onward adjudication of the case.

The protest was organized by the church’s Human Rights Department through The Public Witnessing Platform. The platform is an advocacy and education program that mobilizes churchgoers and the general public to address justice issues such as rape, ritualistic killings, and sexual gender-based violence in Liberian society, Knight said.

Through dialogues, peaceful protests, and direct engagements with government officials and other international partners, the church advocates to ensure that human rights violations are addressed through the justice system.

Swen is a communicator in Liberia.

News media contact: Vicki Brown at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.

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