In the war torn West African nation of Liberia, children who were forced to serve as soldiers during the 14-year civil war are being offered an opportunity to replace the ruthless skills of war with a Christian education.
Mercy Ships is raising funds to support a Christian school in the capital Monrovia, and Christian schools across Australia are being invited to participate in the project, known as Operation Plowshare. 'They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore' (Isaiah 2:4).
Chief Executive Officer for Mercy Ships Australia, Gary Regazzoli, has written to the principals of every Christian school in Australia. "As a school principal recognizes the benefit a good education brings to the development of a child," he says, "a Christian school principal knows the added benefit the spiritual dimension brings to the development of a young child. Imagine bringing these two critical elements together in a country where children lack both of these basic building blocks of life."
"If every Christian school were to participate, we would be looking at a reasonable average of $250 per school, an amount that could be raised easily with a simple gold coin collection from each student."
Liberia is described as the classic 'failed state' in every respect. A great proportion of Liberia's population is illiterate, living below the poverty line, unemployed, malnourished, lacking basic health care, and with no access to safe drinking water. Almost an entire generation has missed out on formal primary education, learning instead to live by a warlord culture where force is the response to many of life's challenges.
Mercy Ships is partnering with Liberians to help solve the educational problems and is supporting the Open Bible School in Congo Town, Monrovia by assisting with construction of a new building for the existing school which now operates from rented facilities in an escalating rental environment. The school offers a Biblically-based education from kindergarten to 12th grade, and currently serves more than 500 children with evening classes for up to 200 adults, many of them former child soldiers. Many times during the course of the civil war, children would start a school year and then have to abandon their studies due to the fighting and unrest. Sometimes children weren't able to go to school at all for several years.
The school also provides educational services to an area of Monrovia known as Congo Town which houses about 5,000 people. The school is open to all members of the community, offering quality education at lower fees than other schools, making it a well-accepted and popular source for education. It is planned to expand student numbers to more than 650, both children and adults.
"The benefits of the project," Regazzoli says, "include decreasing illiteracy in the community, reducing the cycle of violence for 200 former child soldiers due to their lack of education and resulting unemployment, increasing employment prospects for up to 200 adults, and increasing sustainability for education in Congo Town as savings on construction costs can be applied to teacher salaries and operating costs."
"Participating schools in Australia are able to find full details of the project proposal along with promotional material on the Mercy Ships Australia website, www.mercyships.org.au. Supporting struggling schools is just one of many projects Mercy Ships brings to these recovering nations. We are best known for our hospital ships where volunteers provide free medical care to those who need it. Other volunteers are involved in a wide range of community health and development programs, all aimed at following the example of Jesus in bringing hope and healing to the world's forgotten poor."
Mercy Ships - Australia
Operation Plowshare - Christian education for children of war
In the war torn West African nation of Liberia, children who were forced to serve as soldiers during the 14-year civil war are being offered an opportunity to replace the ruthless skills of war with a Christian education. Mercy Ships is raising funds to support a Christian school in the capital Monrovia, and Christian schools across Australia are being invited to participate in the project, known as Operation Plowshare.
Published 12 August 2007