President Ellen Johnson of Liberia _ Reuven Rivlin of Israel
Pres. Sirleaf Raps On Liberia’s Quest For Unity, Transformation
MONROVIA, June 7 (LINA) - President Ellen John Sirleaf says Liberia’s quest for unity and transformation remain extremely essential to the peace, stability and growth of a nation reeling from the trappings of decades of war and self-destruction.
According to a dispatch from Israel, President Sirleaf made the remarks when she delivered a lecture at a forum organized on behalf of the faculty and students of Haifa University.
She said Haifa University represents a dynamic institution with a world-renowned reputation in many different fields of research, and is the leading University in Israel in the fields of the Humanities, Social Sciences, Law, Health Sciences, Natural Sciences, Education and Management.
She described Haifa’s faculty and student population as unique in composition and coloration; an institution with the largest number of military and security personnel who acquire their education at this University alongside Jewish, Haredi and secular students, new immigrants, Arabs and Druze.
Haifa, she noted, is the most pluralistic institution of higher learning in Israel and is a shining example of how excellent research and teaching can be conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect and inclusion, a contribution to the State of Israel and its continued strength.
President Sirleaf lauded Haifa University’s distinctive mission – aimed at fostering academic excellence in an atmosphere of tolerance and multiculturalism.
Speaking on the “Quest for Unity and transformation” – the Liberian leader said Israel and Liberia share some important social and political histories.
Like the modern state of Israel, Liberia was founded by immigrants, freed American slaves who returned to Africa.
She observed that unlike the Jewish scientists, business leaders and mostly educated immigrants who created Israel, the slaves who founded Liberia had little education if any.
But, she added that - through determination and the profound belief in their mission to create a safe haven for all freed slaves, they managed to create a new nation.
President told her faculty and students that Liberia is well endowed with natural resources, but the lack of patronage, guidance and support in the early years of nationhood resulted in a national capacity unable to manage the evolving processes of development and nation building, engendering recurring bailout from financial crisis and many years of recurring remedial effort.
“As a result, the fundamentals for structural changes to ensure growth and development sustainability were never established. In response, the nation veered from one political or financial crisis to the other with the proclivity to turn to politics as the panacea,” she observed.
On the question of the deadly Ebola attack, she said she was pleased that Liberia was able to defeat the virus with the strength and resilience of the Liberian people and the communities that responded to our call for them to take charge of their lives, livelihood and future.
She acknowledged the robust response from the United States and countries throughout the world, including several African nations which sent their own doctors, health care workers and citizens to join UN in the battle.
She also thanked the State of Israel for its response in Liberia’s time of need.
She branded Liberia as a nation at peace, after many decades of war and destruction, which, in essence was the result of bad governance and class stratification.
The Liberian leader blamed schism as the major reason for the many years of war and instability.
She said Liberia has managed to overcome its differences and is a new nation, living in peace.
“Transcending our differences to reach a national state of peace was not easy, but the survival of our nation depended on it as we transition from a country ruled by a one-party system, to one of less than 22 political parties, as many newspapers, radio stations that cut across religious and ethnic divide,” President Sirleaf noted.
“What we have learned from the war is that our diversity can be a strength that will cement our social fabric rather than divide us. By embracing diversity as a unifying force, Liberians are now set on a new course and I am very proud to be part of that process of change. Our mixture of culture, religion and politics are important dividends for peace and development and we intend to nurture them to strengthen our national identity” she intimated.
President Sirleaf said the former slaves who returned to create Liberia brought Christianity with them but on the ground, they found Islam and African traditional religious practices.
“The fact that these religious beliefs managed to co-exist pacifically is now an important factor for our post-war peace-building process. Rather than divide us, religion has played an important role in our search for peace and social harmony.
“At the height of the war, and putting the interest of the nation above all other considerations, our interfaith religious leaders put forward a peace plan that chartered the path to peace. Rather than divide us, religion brought us closer,” she emphasized.
The Liberian Chief executive said “peace and freedom from fear are attainable even in situations that may seem desolate – even though for decades, our people lived in fear, their personal security under constant threat and everything they worked for at risk.
“Notwithstanding, in the end,” she said, “it was through dialogue that we resolved our differences. Had we started by talking to each other and finding common grounds, thousands of lives may have been spared.”
She told Haifa students in particular that people, their age, across the world are becoming increasingly vocal about how they are governed and by whom; old templates of control have been overturned as states struggle internally with issues about national character and destiny; people who, heretofore, had no say in those conversations are asserting themselves and taking a place at the table, with or without an invitation.
The Liberian leader noted that ten years ago, “information about the tragic events came to us mainly through traditional media - radio, television, and… there was no Facebook, no YouTube, no Twitter and all the other social networking sites that my grandchildren now take for granted.”
President Sirleaf paid tribute to Bill Gates, a famous Harvard attendee, who has made our world smaller still by having all of us speak the same dialect, by connecting us electronically and opening doors that just one generation ago seemed to belong to the realm of science fiction.
“Today, because of him, we are closer to living in a global village. With the election of Barack Obama to the Presidency of the United States, the face of American politics has been altered for good. His Presidency brings America another step closer to the fulfillment of the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., of an America where a person’s true worth is not by the color of skin, but the content of character,” she asserted.
She challenged Haifa students that as they progress into the future, they must be guided by the commitment of their University to academic excellence, tolerance and multiculturalism.
These principles, she added, will lead them to respect the undying quest of all mankind for the fundamental rights of freedom, equity and justice amid Liberia’s own quest continues in the same spirit.