Kpolokpai, Bong County — On September 21, 2021, the Civil Peace Service (CPS) partnered with its network institutions, including The Foundation for International Dignity (FIND), Justice of the Peace Commission (JPC), Young Men Christian Association (YMCA), Center for Justice and Peace Studies (CJPS), DELTA-Human Rights Foundation, Incorporated and other partners to celebrate the International Peace Day.
Reflecting the spirit of this year’s theme, “Recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world”, the day-long event took place in Kpolokpai Town, where in 1994, during the first Liberian Civil War, over 300 people were brutally murdered.
Despite having been documented in the Truth and Reconcilation Report (TRC) report as a massacre site, the survivors have been waiting for justice for many years.
Now they have decided to take matters into their hands and to establish a collectively owned “Memorial Farm” to preserve the memory of the past, and which will generate income for the development of their community.
Speaking during the program, the executive director of FIND, Aaron Juakollie, gave the day’s main message as he addressed members of the town: “As we heal from the Covid-19 pandemic, we are inspired to think creatively and collectively about how to help everyone recover better, how to build resilience, and how to transform our world into one that is more equal, more just, equitable, inclusive, sustainable, and healthier.”
Juakollie said the celebration of the Peace Day event in the town was intended to showcase this community-driven initiative.
Juakollie said while the memory of the crimes committed must be kept alive, the efforts of the community to overcome and transform their pain through economic empowerment can serve as an example for how to build a just, and equitable future – especially amid the national debate of a War Crimes and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia.
The FIND boss said the sole objective of celebrating the day, therefore, was to reflect with members of the community and to celebrate their effort to overcome the legacy of the past with a first step towards establishing a collective “Memorial Farm”.
Civil Peace Service (CPS) network partners who attended the event and other partners narrated personal accounts and testimonials of the massacre at Kpolokpai.
CPS network partners had interactive group discussions with members of the community on the following topics: why should we preserve the memory of the past; what do we need to build a better future; how can we work together to transform society; and what do the words “equitable” and “sustainable” mean and how are they relevant for Kpolokpai?
The interactive group discussions were intended to reflect on the past, but live in the present, Economic empowerment as a step toward a better future, renew the calls for justice for war crimes committed and highlighted the need to follow the peace building roadmap, according to Lucia Fahnbulleh, a Human Rights Defender of DEALTA-Human Rights Foundation, Incorporated who facilitated one of the group discussions.
Members of the community praised CPS and its network partners for the event and said this year’s International Day of Peace left a lasting memory for them, particularly with the initiation of a “Memorial Farm” that will raise proceeds to send their children to school.
Each year, the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on September 21. The UN General Assembly has declared the day as devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, through observing 24 hours of non-violence and ceasefire.