My 14-year-old lacrosse-playing son came home the other day with bandages laced around his right shin. A swath of gauze covered a skinned leg slimy with puss and antibiotic ointment. I winced.
My baby boy was injured. But he shrugged off the scrape and dismissed my overreaction. And he was right. He was injured defending a goal on a new AstroTurf field while playing an organized team sport.
His nasty nick is worlds apart from the battle scars boy soldiers my son’s age and younger suffered under the brutal reign of former-Liberian president Charles Taylor. During Liberia’s civil war from 1999-2003, Taylor’s cruel regime conscripted boys. It doped them with drugs and threatened them with death. It transformed them into cold-blooded warriors who raped, killed and mutilated villagers in a gruesome strategy by Taylor to instill fear, oppress liberty, and satisfy his vainglory and greed.
Over the duration of the four-year war, Taylor forced thousands of Liberian children into battle to fend off an uprising in Liberia and to support an insurgency in neighboring Sierra Leone.
He profited mightily, as he received blood diamonds in exchange for his exploits. When The Hague finally convicted Taylor on April 26 for war crimes and crimes against humanity, my heart cried, “Amen.” And I couldn’t believe the timing: Months ago, the Episcopal church women of St. Timothy’s in Southeast Washington set out to plan Women & Girls Week for May 3-6 that will celebrate women working together to uplift our collective humanity.
We came up with the theme, God, Women & Change: Not My Will but Thy Will, O Lord. Thursday kicks the week of with ”Pray the Devil Back to Hell,” an acclaimed documentary that tells the story of Liberian women who came together to bring peace to the country shattered by Taylor. A moderated discussion will follow the screening.
Pray the Devil’s narrative — ordinary mothers, grandmothers, aunts and daughters joining in prayer and protest to stop their nation’s bloody civil war — fits St. Timothy’s special focus on women forging change through faith.
By hosting the screening and discussion, St. Timothy’s wants to affirm the promise that positive change happens when people of faith unite for just causes. All are welcome to attend.
Admission is a new or gently used children’s book for a kid’s literacy program the parish women are starting in Laundromats serving the District’s Wards 7 and 8 communities.
While the District’s children are not fighting on faraway battlefields, many are struggling to survive in homes, schools and communities that fall short in guiding, educating, and protecting them. Help us help children by coming out to tonight’s forum and donating a book.
The week kicks of at Parish Hall at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, 3601 Alabama Ave SE Washington, D.C. 20020 from 7 to 9 p.m.
Donna Lewis Johnson lives and writes in Washington, D.C. She grew up in St. Timothy’s and still calls the parish home.
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