By Jones Nhinson Williams
Most recently on social media, I have read with utter dismay criticisms of the Liberian President George Manneh Weah for visiting and fellowshipping with our Liberian Muslim brothers and sisters at a local mosque. The President visited the mosque along with several officials and dignitaries including the U.S. Ambassador accredited to Liberia, Her Excellency Christine Elder.
To any rational being, this is not just a sign of tolerance, reverence, and an appreciation of peaceful co-existence, it is also a manifestation of real leadership, at least, in this case, on the part of President Weah.
Even though I continue to expect far better from President Weah and the CDC-led government in terms of legitimate, strategic governance that will lift Liberians out of the ongoing excruciating poverty, transform lives and project sound and sustainable growth and development, I also strongly believe that judging and criticizing the president for matters absolutely unrelated to the form of governance that matters to the lives of everyday Liberians makes no sense.
To the social media critics of President Weah’s visit to the Mosque, I have one question for you. Does it really matter what a president’s religion is? I don’t think so, and no logical person will think so as well. After all, the President as a person has the right to identify with any religion at any time he so desires. That should be no one business. Like the president, every Liberian has a similar right to identify with any religion of their choosing, and I do that every time.
I studied for the Catholic priesthood but I have visited Mosques, Jewish Synagogues, Hindu Temples and also prayed and attended services in all. Besides, some of my good and trusted friends are Muslims, Hindus, and Jews and for almost 12 years I served as administrator of the Jewish Family Services international refugees resettlement and integration program. To me, how a person chooses to affiliate is a personal matter and there should be nothing political or critical about it.
I recognized that there are legitimate reasons why most people are angry with and critique the leadership of President Weah and the CDC-led coalition government. I also equally believe that people should have concerns or issues with President Weah based on social, economic and governance policies and programs rather than using religion which is purely a personal matter between an individual and God.
Criticizing the president for visiting and fellowshipping with another group of Liberians reveals how Liberian politics has become unserious and deceptive. Moreover, this shows that Liberia is a unique country where almost everyone is culturally and uniquely insane but still believes we have what one would call a ‘normal society’.
To criticize anyone who is on a peaceful and personal religious journey is an exemplification of our society’s unique and cultural insanity.
That said, our leaders and successive governments are the architects of this unique and cultural insanity we face today and this is why it comes back to haunt them.
We are not a competitive country. We are not an innovative nation. We are not a society full of and led by people who want to make an impact and improve our history. We are also not a serious country that wants to be considered seriously in the comity of nations. We frequently project ourselves as a cursed nation both on social media, in the press and in other environments. I put all of these failures on our successive and current governments and leaders, past and present, that did nothing to transform the mindset of and motivate the citizenry into critical thinking that would inspire patriotism, love of country and unity, innovation, entrepreneurship, and a strategic competitive spirit. The lack thereof is the direct result of the idleness and negative mindset we see today amongst Liberians, at home and abroad. So, while other people from or in other countries are bent on promoting their countries, systems or way of life, we are on social media projecting our ignorance and absurdity, and who we are as a hopeless and disgruntled people.
When a nation is competitive, innovative and when its people are busy competing economically and socially; when jobs are created or are available in the private sector and when wealth and individual importance are based on transparency, accountability, integrity, innovation, and entrepreneurial spirits rather than fraudulent lifestyles, theft of public funds, corruption, greed, and dependence on government jobs to be viewed as successful, people will be so busy that no one will have time to talk about baseless issues such as which religion anyone belongs to.
Social media, especially Facebook, is like a refuge for many Liberians who are frustrated with what is currently obtaining in the country. It is also a demonstration that our country is idled and this idleness is extended to even Liberians in the diaspora and to some in the Liberian government who use social media platforms to expose their glaring incompetence and the weakness and ills of the country.
In countries where folks are serious and competing economically and socially, people don’t waste precious time to talk about religion as a public matter. For example, in Rwanda where economic governance is at its peak, the youth see religion as a personal affair. The reason is simple: every young Rwandan is focused on the social and economic transformation in their country. And they want to be an integral part of it so they don’t waste time on irrational issues.
Because of this reason, they have no reason to waste precious time talking about which religion President Paul Kagame affiliates.
In Liberia, we are our own obstacles and down the road, we will feel the consequences as a country and people. Both the government and Liberian citizens at home and abroad are harming the country at equal footing. The government’s failure and inaction plus the attitudes of the social media critics are driving legitimate foreign investments and good-paying jobs away from the country even though some in the government do not understand this by claiming all is well.
Until we as a country can recognize that not everything is worth criticizing or putting on social media or in the news, we are doomed. And until our government and leadership in Liberia can listen to its citizens and learn to do the right thing, embrace competition and seek out the best minds amongst us so that together we can change the trajectory and stop the bad narratives we generate as a nation, we are equally doomed.
Finally, a president or government’s official religion should not matter in any country including Liberia. Therefore, no one should criticize President Weah for visiting a mosque or affiliating with any religion of his preference. Instead, let us focus on what will make Liberia competitive in the global economy and in the comity of nations. We can do so by focusing on science, technology, engineering, and math as well as investing in agricultural-food production, strategic healthcare delivery, innovation, entrepreneurship, and establishing a society based on transparency, accountability, the rule of law, peaceful co-existence, collective security, and personal integrity.
About the Author:
J.N. Williams is a Catholic educated public philosopher and a U. S. trained public policy, institutional governance and applied development professional with strong expertise in job creation policy, workforce development analysis, and socio-economic growth and development. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.