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First-time International Peacemaker from Liberia shares West African nation’s challenges

Matilda Parker will spread a message of transformation and empowerment while visiting the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

by Scott O’Neill | Presbyterian News Service

Matilda Parker

LOUISVILLE — Matilda Parker, a ruling elder in the First Presbyterian Church of Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa, will visit U.S. churches later this year as one of up to 10  International Peacemakers. The International Peacemaker visits are sponsored by the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program.

Peacemakers from around the world will be making in-person visits throughout the church to share their stories and provide insight into issues of peace and justice that are affecting their countries. They also will help the Church live into the Matthew 25 invitation.

Parker will talk about her foundation’s work in the country — the Matilda Wokie Parker Foundation — which is dedicated to transformation through education, training, life-changing empowerment and nonviolence.

“Liberia has made remarkable peace gains over the past 14 years. However, many of the root causes of Liberia’s conflict remain unaddressed,” Parker said. “The concentration of power in Monrovia and the imbalance in the provision of public services persist as sources of discontent in the country. Land disputes, corruption, and concession-related tensions continue to be the main triggers of violence.”

“My foundation is very involved in the transformation of lives. In the past three years we have focused on the peaceful resolution of land disputes around the country using the Palava Hut approach, the promotion of violent-free elections and the rehabilitation of youth on drugs using the religious approach.”

The PC(USA)’s work in Liberia dates back to 1833. It currently involves 15 congregations with more than 3,000 members. Liberia has a population of 5.2 million and sits on the West African coast. Parker, who is a member of the Bassa tribe, resides in the capital city of Monrovia. She has studied in the U.S. and holds an Executive Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Texas-Dallas. Parker has hands-on experience working in the areas of finance, international relations and business operations. She started her foundation in 2009 to provide assistance to underprivileged families.

Parker believes that one of the many ways to improve peace in Liberia is by addressing imbalance in the provision of public services to citizens. She offered an example of her foundation’s work.

“Ma Siah Koffeh is a market woman who was struggling to support her family. As a result, her kids were always out of school and consistently in trouble. She came to my foundation in 2010 and requested a credit of $100 to start her slippers business. She paid her interest-free loan within the allotted timeframe and her business has grown to the point she is now traveling internationally to buy goods for sale. One of her sons completed our local medical school and the others are now in college,” said Parker.

In a twist of fate, Parker found liquidity a challenge in Liberia during Covid. She needed cash to buy fuel for the foundation’s generator but could not find an ATM in central Monrovia with cash available.

“Ma Siah met me at the bank and gave me $100 for the fuel and insisted that it was nonrefundable. It is amazing how a little empowerment transformed her life from chaotic to peaceful,” said Parker.

During her visit, Parker will share her thoughts on the state of the Liberian nation and the importance of maintaining peace. She will also emphasize the role of the church in conflict resolution.

“As a church, we believe that biblical peacemaking is the most hope-filled, practical, and profound approach to dealing with conflict. Training people to use these principles to have stronger, better relationships is at the heart of what our church is about. We seek to help not only individuals, but whole communities to take on the character of living healthily in relationship using these principles, to build true communities of peace. As relationships are maintained or reconciled using biblical principles, this also draws people closer to God – whether those who already know him, or those who have seen him demonstrated in a Christian approach to a conflict.”

For more information about hosting an International Peacemaker, go here.

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program is one of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. The International Peacemakers Program is made possible by your generous gifts to the Peace & Global Witness Offering.


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