In a country where the absurd and surreal routinely intersect with everyday life, it was hardly a surprise to find the staff of the Liberia Council of Churches meeting in a room shorn of everything from pencils to wall hangings. Only days earlier, a council employee had found bills and memos from the office being used to wrap fish in the markets of Monrovia. The council’s general secretary, Benjamin Lartey, was trying to hunt down and buy back the agency’s desks, chairs and office equipment, which had been stolen and now were being peddled on street corners. Looting had been the norm in the final days of Charles Taylor’s presidency.
Postwar Liberia is breathing a little easier, but it is still on edge. People are in something of a trance, not quite believing or trusting in the calm. There is ample reason for apprehension: Liberians have seen their hopes for peace dashed many times.
Chris Herlinger, former senior writer for Church World Service, is a contributing writer for National Catholic Reporter’s Global Sisters Report. He is the coauthor, with Paul Jeffrey, of books on Haiti and Darfur, published by Seabury. A third book, Food Fight: Struggling for Justice in a Hungry World, has just been released.