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Liberia: Being an Immigrant Welcoming Nation Does Not Mean We Are Foolish

By Jones Nhinson Williams

Most Liberians, including me, overwhelmingly support the naturalization of immigrants and the children of immigrants born in Liberia as citizens.  It is not only a good thing for any country to welcome and naturalize immigrants; it is the right thing to do.  It is good socially because immigration, naturalization, and blending, promote and induce benefits such as diverse cultural perspectives and innovation that, in turn, inspire creativity and drive innovation.  It is good economically because it increases population, which is an economic variable as well as facilitates economic growth, raises general productivity and allows essential sectors of the economy to expand. It makes national security sense since it enhances a country’s economic and physical security and significantly boosts its competitiveness. It is also good ethically and morally because, in every society, immigration is a human right, and every society or country is morally required to respect everyone’s human rights. 

There is also a higher mandate for welcoming immigrants and making them feel at home.  It is said that “Within the New Testament, which Christians read in continuity with the Hebrew Bible or “The Old Testament,” the most often cited passage dealing with welcoming the stranger is from Matthew 25: 31-40. “I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me drink, I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.” The New Testament encourages hospitality explicitly to strangers. In the New Testament, we also read the following verse: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2).

Under Islam, a stranger is referred to as “Ibn Al-Sabil” (wayfarer), to whom is paid much attention by Islam. The Qur’an considers that as an act of righteousness to give money to a wayfarer. We read the following verse:

“Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, despite the love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler.” (Al-Baqarah 2:177).

The Qur’an also orders doing good to wayfarers. We read the following verse:

“Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him, and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbor, the neighbor farther away, the companion at your side, the traveler.” (An-Nisaa’ 4:36).   Indeed, there is an unquestionable and compelling recognition that in all divine religions, there is an order to welcome and show hospitality to strangers, and such a higher mandate prohibits mistreating or oppressing them. According to most religions, doing good to strangers is considered an act of righteousness.

So Liberians should be proud of themselves as a people and a country that welcomes, enculturates and advances immigrants as one and equal to them in everything in their land. Equally, Liberians should be uncompromising, tired, and weary of noises from people (immigrants and children of immigrants born in Liberia) who hailed from countries that do not reciprocate the gesture and hospitality of Liberia and other immigrant-friendly nations.  The fact is it is wrong for some groups of Liberians to be reluctant about the premium treatment given to immigrants and descendants of immigrants in the country. Still, our immigrant brothers and their descendants have to understand that citizenship is a passionate issue in Africa.  Most African nations are selfish.  Liberia, Sierra, and the Ivory Coast are the most Liberal countries in West Africa when it comes to welcoming immigrants to become citizens.  The majority of Liberians do not oppose the naturalization of immigrants in the country. Still, the problem is that if someone wants to become a naturalized Liberian citizen, it has to be done right – meaning the individual must be eligible, and the process must be fair and transparent.

Monrovia, Liberia

Most of the people that cry wolf about Liberian citizenship and how unfair it is are people whom parents or themselves come from countries that are hostile or intolerant to Liberians and others becoming citizens or anything in their countries. For example, there are Liberians born or living in Guinea, Mali, Senegal, The Gambia, Nigeria, Ghana, Lebanon, or living in places like India, Malaysia, among other nations who want to be citizens and actively engage in the politics of those countries.  Ask if they are even acknowledged.   At least that is not the case in our country.  Liberia has recognized and promoted not only naturalized Liberians but even ordinary residents in the country at the expense of native or natural-born Liberians.  Besides, not a single day have we ever seen or heard these “naturalized” and immigrant crybabies talking or writing about the bad behavior of their native countries’ treatment of immigrants not to talk about Liberians.

Furthermore, Liberians are smart and venturous people.  Given the chance or opportunity to become citizens in most of the countries whose citizens seek our nationality, we will reciprocate by naturalizing and participating in those countries’ civic, social, and economic lives. But we are denied that privilege even though we denied our native-born Liberian citizens, who seek opportunities in places like the United States, Canada, and Europe, certain natural rights to benefit naturalized Liberians.

The generosity of Liberians is profound.  From President Tubman era to the era of President Weah, naturalized Liberians and children of immigrant parents, have always served in government at higher offices in all branches of the Liberian government.  Some have even contested for the presidency, and others want to try in the coming years.   There is no problem with these things at all.  However,  “according to the Gospel of John, the Pharisees, in an attempt to discredit Jesus, brought a woman charged with adultery before him. Then they reminded Jesus that adultery was punishable by stoning under Mosaic law and challenged him to judge the woman so that they might then accuse him of disobeying the law. Jesus thought for a moment and then replied, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.” The people crowded around him were so touched by their consciences that they departed. When Jesus found himself alone with the woman, he asked her who her accusers were. She replied, “No, man, Lord.” Jesus then said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more.”  John 8:7 King James Version (KJV).  

Therefore, people from countries that do not allow other immigrants, including Liberians, to breathe or naturalize, should not trumpet the reluctance of some Liberians regarding bogus naturalization and citizenship rights.  To them reluctant Liberians recommend this famous dictum, “One cannot be in a glasshouse and throw stones.”

About the Author:

J. N. Williams

J.N. Williams is a Catholic educated public philosopher and a U. S. trained public policy and institutional governance professional with strong expertise in job creation policy, workforce development analysis, and socio-economic growth and development. He can be reached at jnw5050@gmail.com.

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