A newsletter for friends of the Global Mission Institute, Luther Seminary

Global Vision - Fall 2008

View more articles in the Fall 2008 issue.

Working for Peace: Marie Hayes

by Shelley Cunningham ('98)

Marie Hayes began working for the Liberian government when she was in high school. She witnessed, and was affected by, some of the corruption that eventually led to civil war. In 1990, she moved to Chicago, where she became a part of the Diaspora, large communities of Liberians around the world who have left their homeland, voluntarily or involuntarily.

The Liberian Diaspora

Like many refugee and ethnic settlements, the Liberian Diaspora relies heavily on religious leaders to remain connected - both in their new location and with friends and relatives back home.

Hayes' involvement with the Diaspora grew stronger once she moved to the Twin Cities, which is home to the largest community of Liberians outside Liberia. She has served in a number of leadership roles with the Organization of Liberians in Minnesota, including acting president and chair of the board of directors.

Over the last five years, the Liberian Diaspora has been affected by activities of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The TRC aims to tell the stories of what happened during Liberia's civil war by collecting statements from both victims and alleged perpetrators. TRC members have been trained in Liberian history, culture and in working with survivors of torture and war trauma.

Building Connections at Luther

Last spring, Hayes served as a convener of "Healing Through Faith," a training conference for Liberian faith leaders which was held on Luther Seminary's campus. The seminary became a logical host for the conference because of connections in the pastoral care and counseling program, former professor of mission and GMI Director Frieder Ludwig's passion for Africa, and because Doctor of Ministry student James Wilson is chair of the Liberian Ministers Association.

"We wanted to engage pastors, connect with Islamic leaders, and work with lay people who would be taking
the statements," Hayes said. "The process is to help us be at peace with each other. [The people who attended] are influential voices in the Diaspora community. They need to be united in their purpose to keep that peace."

Hayes understands that simply collecting the statements and holding such hearings does not necessarily
mean there will be reconciliation in the future.

"I am not sure what will happen [once the TRC issues its summary report]," she said. "I would hope it could bring healing. But those involved have to admit what they have done, show remorse." Still, she is hopeful that the training Diaspora leaders have received will serve them well as they strive to keep the community united.

"If there is peace at home, we will be at peace here."

For more information go to:

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia and
Lutheran Church in Liberia and Louis T. Bowers Lay Leaders and Ministry Training Center (on the ELCA's website).