Women of the ELCA

Commentary and reflections on issues, events and trends in our church, society and world, as seen through the lens of our mission and purpose and our ministries.

Congratulations to our Lutheran sister Leymah Gbowee!

Posted on October 7, 2011 by Kate Sprutta Elliott

Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee was one of three women to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this morning. According to the Nobel committee, Leymah was honored for mobilizing women “across ethnic and religious dividing lines to bring an end to the long war in Liberia, and to ensure women’s participation in elections.” Leymah is a founding member of the Women in Peacebuilding Program/West African Network for Peacebuilding (WIPNET/WANEP). The other Peace Prize recipients were Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and democracy activist Tawakkul Karman of Yemen.

Women of the ELCA has a long relationship with Leymah: She was a keynote speaker at the Triennial Gathering in Spokane,Wash., in July. She recently visited the churchwide office of Women of the ELCA in Chicago while on tour promoting her new book, Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War. We hosted her for a presentation at the Lutheran Center on September 19.

Lutheran women first learned of the Liberian women’s peace efforts in the January/February 2004 issue of Lutheran Woman Today (now Gather) magazine in an article “Lutheran Liberian Women Unify for Peace,” written Eva Jensen, former ELCA global mission personnel. Eva wrote,

“Leymah Gbowee, president of the women’s organization at St.  Peter’s Lutheran Church in the capital city of Monrovia, and Comfort Freeman, president of the National Lutheran Church Women in Liberia, began organizing WIPNET Liberia in June 2002. In their daily life and work, Gbowee and Freeman recognize the reality that Liberia’s people — individually and collectively — have been traumatized by war.

‘By virtue of where we sit, the people of Liberia have hope,’ said Gbowee, referring to the women who began their daily sit-in for peace in mid-April on the Monrovia Airfield next to the main road leading into the city. Under the hot sun and in pouring rain, the women of Liberia gathered to convey their commitment to peace. They gathered to protest the actions of all who perpetuate Liberia’s violent civil war. ‘Some say we are an embarrassment to the government,’ Gbowee continued, ‘but sun and rain are better than the bullets of war. Our vision is for the unity of families and the elimination of hunger and disease. We believe God’s hands are under us in this effort now. God has turned ears toward us.’”

One year later, in the January/February 2005 issue of the magazine, Leymah told her own story in an article, “Persistence and Peace.” In it she wrote,

“We had been pushed as women to our physical, psychological, and spiritual limits. We had been pushed to the wall, and we had two options. We could either fight back, or we could give up. For us, giving up was not an option. We would fight back.

“Christian and Muslim women from all walks of life in Liberia decided ‘enough is enough.’  We would take the destiny of this tiny nation into our own hands by embarking on a journey called peace activism. We had no knowledge of how long it would take or the financial implications, but we were determined to make things right.”

Leymah goes on to tell how her faith informed their work for peace:

“If I were to say that this has been done on our own, I would be lying. I feel that God has ordained our work. We’ve done, and we continue to do, what God has called us to do forLiberia. When my kids tell me, ‘Mama, when we really needed you, we stayed in Ghana and you stayed in Liberia.” I can proudly knock my chest and say, ‘I did a work for peace, a peace that has a home today.’….

“I believe very strongly that when God created women, God put something in us that was exhibiting itself within that parable of the widow and the unjust judge — persistence. Perhaps in the parable Jesus was saying, ‘Go deeper within yourself. God has given you a double portion of determination, a double portion of resilience, a double portion of perseverance. You can do anything that you put your heart to do.'”

Leymah’s story inspires us as women of faith to have the courage to work for peace and justice wherever we are—we can make a difference, just as our Lutheran sister has in her country. We congratulation her and celebrate her recognition!

Kate Sprutta Elliott is editor of Gather, the magazine of Women of the ELCA.

(Learn more about Gbowee’s peace-building work in a five-part PBS television series, Women, War & Peace.  Also, view the movie, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, to see how the peace effort began.)

8 Responses to 'Congratulations to our Lutheran sister Leymah Gbowee!'

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  1. Georganne said,

    on October 7th, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Queen Anne Lurtheran Church, Seattle also had the privilege of hosting Leymah just this week when she visited our city during her book tour. We screened a brief segment of the documentary and many people asked, “Where do I get a copy?”. Most major cities should have a video store that carries documentaries for rent. It can also be purchased online. The second week of the Women, War and Peace series [October 18th] includes Pray the Devil Back to Hell and the final week includes conversation with Leymah Gbowee. An inspiring and courageous woman of faith!

  2. Amy said,

    on October 7th, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    You can also buy a copy of Pray the Devil Back to Hell through their website
    There is also a trailer on that site.

    Congratulations to Leymah!!!!

  3. Karen Retzlaff said,

    on October 7th, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    I was driving to work this morning when I heard the announcement at 6:30 a.m. on the Canadian Broadcasting Company out of Winnipeg! I broke into a heart-felt prayer of thanks to God for his goodness in allowing this trio of women to overcome the racial injustices, the persecution,the evil at work in this world!
    I am proud to say that I heard Leymah at Triennial in Spokane. Congratulations to all of the Nobel Peace Prize winners!

  4. Chris Dudley said,

    on October 7th, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    Congratulations, Leymah! I was honored to have had Leymah sign my DVD of her movie “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” at the WELCA Triennial Convention. What a bold Lutheran woman!!!

  5. Dr. Beverly Wallace said,

    on October 8th, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    To our African sistah, CONGRATULATION! Your African- American Lutheran sisters join others in saluting you and honoring you. Blessings to you as we continue the work of liberation, born of struggle and faith, through-out the world.

    Dr. Beverly R. Wallace, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor
    The Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta
    Atlanta, Georgia

  6. Dawn said,

    on October 9th, 2011 at 6:34 pm


  7. Emma Rasoarivonjy said,

    on October 10th, 2011 at 11:03 am

    CONGRATULATIONS, Sister Leymah! I continually thank God for your inspiring speech and living testimony during the Triennial Gathering in Spokane, Washington this July. It has been an once-and-for all experience in my life, one that – thanks be to God – will play an important part in shaping my ministry and the Lutheran Women’s fight back in Madagascar. I am honored to have met you, spoken with you, and now I am reclaiming the space that has been denied me for many years. Congratulations and blessings to all of the Nobel Peace Prize winners!

  8. Sandy Chandonia said,

    on October 11th, 2011 at 10:25 am

    What an honor she has been given. CONGRATULATIONS, your speech in Spokane at the Triennial was so moving and inspiring. What one woman can do when she believes in something. As you told us “Women reclaim your space!!” I will be working on this for along time. If you have not seen the movie Pray the Devil back to Hell– October 18th on PBS.

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