Monrovia, Liberia - As part of events commemorating this year’s National Decoration Day on Wednesday, March 12, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf laid wreaths on the mass grave of the Lutheran Church massacre, the mass grave of the five murdered Catholic nuns, and the grave bearing the remains of the fallen Catholic Archbishop Michael Francis.
An Act of the National Legislature sets aside the second Wednesday in March of each year as Decoration Day and is celebrated as a National Holiday to remember and commemorate those sons and daughters who have passed to the great beyond. The day affords family members and love ones to clean and decorate the graves of all the faithful departed.
According to an Executive Mansion release, at the St. Peter Lutheran Church on Tubman Boulevard, President Sirleaf said she had gone to the church on behalf of the Government of Liberia to memorialize those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for peace in Liberia. “They were innocent people seeking sanctuary in the House of God [St. Peter’s Lutheran Church] when evil befell them. We like to extend to their families our heartfelt deepest sympathies, our apologies for what they have suffered as they remember their love ones,” she said sorrowfully.
The Liberian leader hoped that their memories stay with the people of Liberians as they continue to work for peace, instill into them respect for each other and to stop the acrimonies and violence that have always characterize the Liberian society.
At the Sacred Heart Cathedral on Broad Street where the grave of the five Catholic nuns killed by former rebels of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia in desperation to take control of Monrovia from ECOWAS Peacekeepers, President Sirleaf, in a brief statement, said though it was a bad memory, but it was equally memorable to honor the victims who she said did not only serve God while living, but also worked for humanity and therefore deserve a great tribute.
“We are here to honor and remember those great women who came to serve their God and humanity; they were brave, sacrificial, kind and loving women who joined hands with our citizens to create a better society and in the end they paid the ultimate price for the so many people of Liberia,” President said.
She called on Liberians to remember the victims and hoped that their services will be examples for those who love their God and work for humanity. She hoped that the nuns’ service rendered the country be an inspiration to all Liberians in maintaining the peace.
At the grave of the late Archbishop Francis, situated at the Sacred Heart Cathedral compound, President Sirleaf described late Archbishop as the “conscious of the nation” who will forever be remembered for standing up for social justice. She hoped that his memory will forever live on especially his advocacy for social justice and rule of law.
The Independent National Commission on Human Rights, the organizers of the event, also extended its activities to the Duport Road in Paynesville and Cater Camp in Harbel where hundreds of Liberians were massacred and buried in mass graves during various phases of the country’s civil war. At these sites, Vice President Joseph N. Boakai laid floral designs on the two mass graves.
During separate ceremonies, Vice President Boakai said the memories of those buried in those mass graves should serve as a lesson to all Liberians that never again should they solve their differences through violence but rather dialogue.
Vice President Boakai reminded Liberians that those who lay in the mass graves did not deserve to be buried in such a manner and that the actions that subjected them to such barbaric act should not be repeated anymore in the history of Liberia.
Also speaking at these sites, the chairman of the Independent National Commission on Human Rights, Retired Justice Gladys Johnson, prayed that God forgives Liberia as a nation. She thanked the caretakers of the mass graves for continuing to pay respect to the victims by keeping the graves clean at all times.