Councils, Mourning Feasts and Other Ceremonies
In Africa if I am healed,
I can heal 20 people just
by interacting with them. They, in turn, can heal
20 people, and so on.
In Africa, that's
how it works.
- William Saa
Children at the mourning feast.
The first step in peacebuilding is often to listen to the community and then to see how – in ways that the community considers welcome and appropriate - to encourage people to listen and communicate with each other.
In the Liberian context, traditional ceremonies have a unique power to bring divided communities together. There is an understanding that lingering conflicts create an imbalance not only among the living but also between the living and the dead, and between the human and spirit world, which includes nature and the dead. The first step in planning and carrying out such gatherings is to invite people to sit together in council to discuss issues, tell dreams, make offerings, and share stories.
In particular, traditional Mourning Feasts help the dead complete their journey ‘across the river’ to their final rest. Prior to the feast itself, the community engages in a process of intensive reconciliation, culminating in the feast. By eating from the common bowl, people are taking an oath of reconciliation. The community’s conflicts then are put to rest permanently with the dead. These feasts are uniquely effective in bringing together deeply divided communities for unity, reconciliation, healing and future planning.
everyday gandhis supported the first traditional Mourning Feast held in Liberia since the civil war, peacefully bringing together over 5,000 people of differing faiths and ethnicities to honor the dead and reconcile with each other.
We also supported the first traditional land cleansing ceremonies held in Voinjama since the war, during which numerous insects, reptiles, animals and birds unexpectedly and peacefully appeared but did not harm or threaten the people. Over the last decade, dozens of ceremonies have been held throughout most of the villages in the Voinjama area.
We continue to work with elders, women, ex-combatants, opinion leaders and local government officials to bring communities together in council to discuss issues, plan gatherings, and hold traditional ceremonies. We pay particular attention to people from remote villages who are normally left out of such gatherings.