“Pray The Devil Back to Hell”
A documentary on the civil war and conflict in Liberia c. 1989
I regretfully cannot claim prior knowledge to the atrocities that took place during Liberia’s first-ever civil war. As I sat in silence absorbing as much information from the documentary “Pray the Devil Back to Hell”, I noticed, within myself, a gradual progression of empathy for the women speaking and being filmed, and especially those who were too disturbed by their experiences and scared into silence that they elected not to speak out.
I was deeply bothered by what I viewed, and a few tiny tears crept out of my eyes, rolled down my cheek, settling on the palm of my hand, which my heavy head (full of thought) rested in. After witnessing terrible, life-altering brutalities (their husbands’ murders, their daughters’ rapes, their towns’ numerous pillages, and being victims of verbal assault, sexual assault, sexual abuse, rape, and humiliation), a number of courageous women united in an effort to protest the unfair treatment and the unacceptable life-in-fear which Charles Taylor, Liberian President at the time, had created and maintained since 1989.
The strength, resiliency, level-headedness, good nature, and perseverance of the women were so enormous that I could only wonder, “How is it possible, especially at a time like this?” I could not fathom the strength this alliance of women protesters in Liberia had achieved and maintained through the singular focus of ridding their cities of the constant rape from “protecting” military forces. By far, the most outstanding of these characters (in my personal opinion) was Leyman Roberta Gbowee, the cofounder and executive director of the Women in Peace and Security Network-Africa (WIPSEN-Africa). She led a peacemaking rally and protest, with the help of friend, Vaiba Flomo, at an empty market yard. Local women gathered here, wearing all white (a signal of peace), holding signs asking for the end of constant rape and living in fear. They stayed there night and day, without food and protection from inclement weather (had it arrived), in order to make clear their earnestness about the circumstances.
The differences between these numerous women’s backgrounds are a notable one. As stated in the film, the network of women originated at a Christian church, and soon joined forces with Muslim women in and around the area. This joining of forces was made possible through the one Muslim woman who attended the church at the time of its origination, and her spread of information throughout the Muslim community. Many worried that the joining of religions would create conflict within the churches, but the wise Vaiba Flomo asked, “Can the bullet pick and choose? Does the bullet know Christian from Muslim?” There was no way that destructors and the boys in the Liberian military forces would know the difference between Christians and Muslims, because to them, the women they encountered were not women at all, but rather property to take. Though there were obvious differences within each woman, they were united through a major similarity, and they were equally mistreated and tortured. This was not a question of religion, but instead one of morality. The women in the interviews were so captivating and poignant through their expressions and heart-breaking stories. It was instinct for me to feel their pain and suffering, and to wish that in another life, I was able to help in their efforts, adding another woman to their headstrong forces. These women deserved the life they continuously fought for; a life without constant fear and bloodshed.
The devastating truth is that women in Liberia are far from the only human beings experiencing this twinge and trepidation. Many parts of Africa provide a similar environment for women of all ages, as well as the men, elderly, and their children. This is still existent in so many other areas of the world, where women are degraded and purely seen as “property”, thus losing the true value of their lives (one not of a certain price). More so, the conflict of war and patriarchal-based social constructs only exacerbate already existing problems within a society. An important aspect I felt necessary to bring to attention is how the scene and events would be taken, had they been removed from the context of war. Clearly, the war itself was due, chiefly, to the greed of wealth and power over natural resources available in the area. However, if this strife had occurred in another location of the world, where resources were not available to monopolize, and war was not present (as a result of conflicting aristocrats attempting to gain the ultimate power-position); the discourse of events taking place would lead to ending the unbelievable atrocities in a timely manner. Likely, something of this nature would not last longer than a few weeks (I’d hope), before other nations became highly involved in assistance to protect the citizens in this area. Alliances would be formed, and a positive power would wipe out those who have committed these crimes against the individuals in the area. However, because we cannot separate these conflicts from the context, I frustrated myself wondering why stronger transnational forces cannot unite and take on the source of destruction (though with more thought over time, so many reasons why this has not happened in the “ideal” way surfaced, complicating everything so much more!). It is clear that selfish motives are instilled in the “evil-doers” minds and nature of being, and their goals are achieved through physical strength and fear, so, is it necessary to continue this way?
Could there not be a shift in thinking, offering alternative methods of resolution to the war and its proceedings? Physical strength will be necessary in keeping back evil forces, but efforts in separating them from the innocent in the first place is what, I feel, needs to be re-evaluated. Needless to say, this is an entire can of worms which I am not educated on well enough to open quite yet. People work every day to solve these problems as best they can, and to attempt to answer these daunting questions. There are innumerable factors, which pile up, making the mounds of problems present throughout the world, in this lifetime. Life is not as simple as we want it to be. The battles we face in our own, personal lives, as well as those on a more local or national level may see resolution within our lifetimes. The mistake we make, however, is that in order to maintain what is gained from a resolution (or the progression of one), we must constantly remain involved and work to keep the achievements present. Staying involved in the efforts of peacekeeping is vital and necessary to sustain a balanced power system in the government’s control, and a more enjoyable life/environment overall. Simply put: “Peace is not an event, it’s a process.”- Vaiba Flomo
Cite this Pray the Devil Back to Hell: A Response
Pray the Devil Back to Hell: A Response. (2016, Nov 04). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/pray-the-devil-back-to-hell-a-response/