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Catholic Church Wants War Crimes Tribunal After TRC...As Lutheran Massacre Commemoration Begins

Monsignor Andrew Karnley, Apostolic Administrator of the Catholic Church in Liberia said Liberians must come to terms with issue of reconciliation and justice as there can be no reconciliation without justice.

"We must ensure that those who bear the greatest responsibilities for the horrors in Liberia must be held accountable for the crimes committed," Reverend Father Karnley said, attracting a thunderous applause from worshippers who jammed packed the scene of the massacre to commemorate the killings.

He called on Liberians to see massacres committed by various factions in the civil war as lessons saying they must vow they will never be repeated. Father Karnley said those who committed economic and war crimes during the country's years of conflict must be held accountable for their actions.

"What happens after the TRC? Let's stand for justice. Let us stand up for righteousness. If we fail to hold them accountable for their crimes, some of us will become victims again one day," he added.

The Catholic prelate said the church will lobby with its partners for the establishment in Liberia of a hybrid of the war crimes court in Sierra Leone.

He lamented the massacre of the defenceless citizens who had sought refuge in the St. Peter's Lutheran Church, saying, "they had come to the house of God to seek refuge under his watchful eyes but wicked men came and murdered them right in the presence of God."

Father Karnley also called for the erection of special memorials for all victims of the conflict at strategic locations around the country.

"The truth telling process in a therapeutic one, we believe that special memorials must be constructed at the approaches to our major cities to serve as remembrance for all those who lost their lives during this national horror," he said.

The Pastor of the St. Peter's Lutheran Church said since the massacre the Government of Liberia has failed to highlight the plight of victims and survivors and thanked the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Liberia for collaborating with the church to remember the victims.

"It is 18 years today since this (genocide )took place here and today we are going to hear the truth. But we would want to know what will happen to the victims of the July 29, 1990 nightmare. We would not stop there, we would like to know what the government and the international community would do to ensure that the rights of people are protected. This (genocide) has not been highlighted on the agenda of government," Pastor Thomas PAYE said.

Pearl Brown-Bull, TRC Oversight Commissioner for Montserrado County said sin can only be expatiated by the true confessions of the offenders or relatives of the offenders to their victims. She said as Liberians embark on the eve of the difficult decision of reconciliation, they must now tell the truth.

"Our judgment of our fellowmen is most often author in human bias. The legacy of our civil war was an alter of sin. It is through the process of confession that genuine reconciliation can be attained. There can be no reconciliation unless there is confession. That is a form of justice," Mrs. Brown-Bull said.

TRC Chairman Counsellor Jerome Verdier said the incident at the church was a clear manifestation of man's inhumanity to man.

Counsellor Verdier said the event at the church must not be forgotten as it must serve as a reminder to all Liberians that when society disintegrates ruthlessness is the order.

The program was attended by Nimba County Senators Prince Johnson and Adolphus Dolo, who is said to be one of the survivors of the massacre.

Hundreds of women, children and men who had taken refuge in the church were massacred on Sunday, July 29, 1990.

Initial reports at the time of the massacre put the death toll at 200 to 300 but survivors of the attack said troops had broken into the church and killed men, women, children and babies with knives, guns and cutlasses.

Witnesses said at least 600 refugees were killed putting the number of refugees in the church at 2,000.
Reports said a group of 30 soldiers firing machine guns stormed the church compound and fired point blank at some of the 2,000 refugees who had been there since National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel forces reached the capital.

During the three day event survivors of the massacre, most of who still bear the physical scars of the incident will recount their experiences.

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