Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Praying the Devil back to Hell and celebrating the extraordinary Christian and Muslim women of Liberia

Twice this week at the IEPC we have shown Pray the Devil back to Hell, an extraordinary film which movingly and brilliantly charts the feisty story of the women's peace movement in Liberia. It's a story I knew almost nothing about until I saw the film for the first time last week. It brings together so many elements that have been shared, discussed, sung about and prayed for during these days at the Convocation.
A desperate tragic situation: war, oppression and dictatorship raging for over a decade. And women in the churches coming together with a crazy idea to pray for peace ... and Muslim women joining them.
There's powerful footage of the women dressing in white to go on their first demonstration and warlords preparing weaponry. These were women who knew only too well what they wanted, only peace could secure a future for each family and the whole country. It is a powerful illustration of Paul Oestreicher's call for the abolition of war on the first day of the convocation. Without peace the hope of any kind of future is absent. "We want peace, no more war. Liberia is our home". They sing, they dance, they go on sex strike, to get the men to join with them.
The women showed such tenacity as well as great and creative organisation, this campaign begins in the grassroots - we want our husbands, sons and brothers back. It ends up at the international peace talks in Ghana and finally in involvement in the detailed implementation of the peace agreement and beginning to build a democratic culture and structure in the country afterwards. They didn't think just because they got an agreement everything will be ok. At one point they even take on the UN in the disarmament process.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said in her presidential inaugural address "it was the women who led us to peace."
Are you willing to step out in your home, to work for hope in the most desperate of circumstance? Am I willing to do that?
It's a very powerful film. Highly recommended