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Liberian dictator says country under rule of Jesus Christ. (People & Events).

Brutal Liberian dictator Charles Taylor has declared his nation under the rule of Jesus Christ, a move that has been applauded by TV preacher Pat Robertson.

Taylor, an international pariah and former warlord, appeared at a recent "Liberia for Jesus" rally where he told the crowd that his nation must rely on Jesus to end its problems.

"When the president says, `I cannot help you and all help comes from God,' you'd better believe it," Taylor told a crowd of thousands packed into a sports stadium in the Liberian capital of Monrovia. "I say to you, `Above me is a higher, higher, higher authority, and that authority is Jesus Christ.'"

Robertson helped organize the rally, and his Christian Broadcasting Network carried a laudatory report about the event on CBN's website (www.cbn.org). The report noted that in preparation for the rally, Taylor ordered all businesses and churches closed for "three days of prayer, praise and repentance." During the rally, Taylor "lay prostate on the floor and led the nation in repentance before God," CBN reported.

"I can see angels moving through this stadium!" Taylor told the crowd. "And they went back to God and said, `Lord, Liberia is knocking on the door.' And I can hear him say, 'Open the door and let Liberia in!'"

In February Christianity Today reported that Robertson helped instigate the event, but most of the work in Liberia was handled by a Robertson associate, Bishop John Gimenez of Rock Church in Virginia Beach.

Gimenez told CBN, "I believe that this rally is like the atomic bomb of peace.... This is the Liberian people's time to repent. God is going to listen to them. God is going to heal their land."

According to the CBN report, "For three days Christians of every denomination repented and prayed for deliverance from witchcraft, ritual killings, war, sickness, corruption, immorality and poverty."

Liberia, an impoverished nation of about two million on the west coast of Africa, has been racked by years of civil war and corrupt governments. As Christianity Today reported, "The jobless rate is 95 percent. The average annual income is $490. Taylor, who set off the civil war in 1989, came to power by force in 1996. A suspect election confirmed his position in 1997." Taylor has also been accused of plundering the nation's assets to enrich himself and ordering the murders of political opponents.

Liberia is not a predominantly Christian nation. Only about 35 percent of the population is Christian. Forty-three percent follow traditional native religions, and the rest are Muslims. Some observers believe the Jesus rally was a primarily political event, an effort by Taylor to turn Liberians away from an armed opposition movement called Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD). Taylor claims that LURD is a front for an extreme Islamic political movement based in neighboring Guinea. Opponents believe the rally was designed to make it appear that Taylor is battling radical Islam.

In March, the magazine Africa News ran a column blasting the rally, calling it "an orchestration" for political purposes.

"The utterances from the scoundrel Charles Taylor and his minions in the weeks preceding this jamboree focused on the so-called `Muslim threat' to `Christian Liberia' manifested in the `predominated Muslim LURD,' supported by a Muslim president in neighbouring Guinea," wrote H. Boima Fahnbulleh, former Liberian foreign minister. "This was what the cabal in Monrovia sold to the Liberian people and some of those in the Bible Belt in the United States. It was a ruse, tawdry and unconscionable, but for a regime without credibility and reputable friends internationally, the religious card is a desperate throw of the dice."

Fahnbulleh asserted that Taylor's plan would backfire because Liberians know him too well.

"They know Charles Taylor has murdered people who took sanctuary in the House of the Lord, but they follow him in this stupid ritual of religious mockery," he wrote.

Taylor has virtually no support in the international community. His regime has been accused of numerous human rights abuses and atrocities. Last month, the BBC reported that after Taylor declared a state of emergency due to activity by LURD fighters, hundreds of child soldiers were sent to the front lines. According to the report, boys as young as 6 have been forced to fight in Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia.

Taylor has used child soldiers before, and in 1990 ordered his army to forcibly induct young boys. They were later drilled to fight in an infamous "Small Boy Unit." Given no education, the boys were later kicked out of the army and left to wander the streets of Monrovia, where many must beg for a living.

Despite Taylor's poor reputation, Robertson continues to work with him on a plan to open a gold-mining operation in Liberia. A Robertson-owned company, Freedom Gold, is exploring for gold in southeast Liberia. If gold is found, Taylor's government will receive royalties and rental fees from Robertson's firm.
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Publication:Church & State
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2002
Words:823
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