An Appeal for Father Jenkins' Safety

By: James W. Harris

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Posted May 22, 2002

Unless one is absolutely dedicated to a particular cause, it is highly unthinkable that he or she would remain in an area where a rather strange and brutal civil war is said to be raging once again. And so, when the now missing Catholic priest, Father Garry Jenkins, resolved some twenty years ago to stay in Liberia no matter what and care for the war-ruined nation's most needy, especially, the blind, it must have been his natural calling in this life.

Or else, why would he have reached that life-long decision many years ago when he certainly could have made other better and safer choices? Obviously, the answer lies somewhat in his strong faith to serve his God regardless of how dangerous or life-threatening the situation may be.

The latest news of his apparent disappearance from Tubmanburg, Bomi County, along with some 60 blind Liberians, who were in his care, is painfully heartbreaking. In a larger sense, it actually speaks of the kind of turmoil and lawlessness that the once peaceful Liberia has been subjected to since the "criminal" government in Monrovia waged its savage war on the country more than ten years ago for the sake of "raw" power.

At a very critical time like this, when the less fortunate Liberians need any and every kind of assistance, including, humanitarian, the priest's abrupt disappearance is bound to have a negative impact on the provision of such aid as it would discourage others, who may not be as committed as Father Jenkins, from deliberately risking their own lives just to help the suffering people. And this surely wouldn't be good at all for those who need help the most!

That is why it is critically important that whoever is holding Father Jenkins, whether it is the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), or the miserably unreliable Taylor government, produce him immediately for their own good and that of the war-wrecked country. I must be emphatically clear here that it is not in anyone's interest to continue holding this servant of God or harm the helpless blind people, who depend MOSTLY on him for their daily survival.

It's welcoming news that LURD's official spokesperson, one William Hanson, has come forward recently to disclose that it was his group that had taken the Father [and the others]. But that he (Hanson) did not know the whereabouts of the missing blind people is saddening.

Meanwhile, the despotic Taylor regime too, through its Defense Minister, Daniel Chea, has already sounded an alarm, ordering its soldiers, who are best known for their ruthlessness as opposed to protecting the people's lives and properties, to comb the entire Tubmanburg area and beyond for the missing priest, not necessarily the Liberians, who definitely need help because of their blindness. But if history is any lesson [and it is], one has to be continuously weary and suspicious of both groups, particularly, the government.

Does anyone remember the five American-Catholic nuns that were brutally raped and then murdered allegedly by rebels of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) led by the same Charles Taylor during the heyday of his earlier civil war for state power? How soon we forget; not to say, though, that LURD is any better!

According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) last evening, as well as other sources, Father Jenkins was last seen about nine days ago [May 13, to be exact] shortly before the dissident LURD's forces attacked the area in which he had been working all these years with the blind and people that were displaced internally by the ongoing senseless war.

"The [British] Foreign Office said on Tuesday [May 21, that] it was checking reports that the whole group may have been taken to Voinjama in the north, where the rebel group is based," the BBC reported. That the Father and his group was on their way to Voinjama, escorted by fighters of LURD to their declared headquarters there, has also been confirmed by Mr. Hanson, the spokesperson, in subsequent news pieces.

The usually reliable BBC added: "An unconfirmed report received by the Foreign Office suggested [that] his [Jenkins] condition was 'well'". Let's hope that's true! Let's also hope that the rest of the people with him are well too, because every life is precious.

For his part, the normally outspoken Liberian Archbishop, Michael K. Francis, had this to say: "All we can do and ask everyone to do is to continue to pray for their safety... We are just hoping that nothing more serious happens to them." But with the usual false claims and counter-claims between the morally bankrupt National Patriotic Party (NPP) government and their shadowy LURD antagonists, the only thing that matters right now is for the Father and those in his care to show up hopefully soon in person.

While we wait in agony for any good news regarding the whereabouts of Father Jenkins and his group, we would faithfully like to join the church and others to continue to pray for them, in the hope that their fates won't be as those of the nuns, whose only crime was to care for the most unfortunate of God's children.

This surely is another sad day for Liberia and that's why I'm compelled to make this appeal on their behalf. May God help us and save the seemingly dead Liberian nation!

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