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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 2 April, 2003, 10:33 GMT 11:33 UK
Liberia bans street preaching
By Jonathan Paye-Layleh
BBC, Monrovia

The Liberian Government has imposed an immediate ban on street preaching by evangelists and church leaders in the capital, Monrovia.

President Charles Taylor
Taylor is jittery over huge gatherings

A justice ministry press release cited security reasons for the ban but gave no more details.

It only warned of stiff punitive measures against would-be violators of the new order.

The ban comes just a week after rebels of the Liberian United for Reconciliation and Development (Lurd), who started their insurgency in the north of the county five years ago, came to within 10km of the capital.

Until today, nearly every street corner and public square in Monrovia were scenes of day-time prayer services, with young evangelists and self-proclaimed spiritual counsellors drawing in crowds.

Prayer recitals

Street vendors and students would abandon their daily duties and gather in the burning sun to repeat recitals of prayers for themselves and the nation.

Liberian refugee children
Thousands have fled the fighting

Followers were encouraged to present gifts, usually money, to God through the preachers in return for God's expected blessings.

Indeed so widespread had street evangelism become that people with little or no biblical knowledge were also getting involved in the preaching.

Since Lurd rebels began attacking townships close to Monrovia, the government has attempted to discourage the mass gathering of people in the capital.

Mixed blessings

Reaction to this latest measure has been mixed.

Some people see the action as helping to make things difficult for suspected rebel agents who might take advantage of such gatherings to cause a stir in Monrovia.

But a renowned clergyman, the Reverend Plessant Harris, described the measure as "a little bit vague".

He said unless the government explains the specific activities which are banned, then the banning order will be left open to all kinds of interpretation.


SEE ALSO:
Liberian rebels open new fronts
31 Mar 03  |  Africa
Rebels close in on Monrovia
26 Mar 03  |  Africa
Liberian troops 'retake town'
29 Mar 03  |  Africa
On Liberia's front line
03 Aug 02  |  From Our Own Correspondent
Timeline: Liberia
04 Mar 03  |  Country profiles



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