A Baptist leader in Liberia is asking for worldwide prayer as armed conflict threatens to slide his country into anarchy and for financial assistance to help meet human needs.

Reuters reported Monday that French troops evacuated foreign nationals trapped by fighting in Liberia’s capital city of Monrovia by helicopter. The rebel group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy fought its way to the city’s edge against government troops before halting its offensive to give President Charles Taylor three days to step down.

A United Nations-backed court in Sierra Leone indicted Taylor last week for war crimes alleged during Liberia’s civil war in the 1990s. Taylor attended peace talks in Ghana, but area diplomats predicted he would likely fight to the end. Residents of Liberia appealed to the international community for intervention to stop the bloodshed.

“People are scared and fearing for their lives,” Emile Sam-Peal, general secretary of the Liberian Baptist Missionary and Education Convention, told the Baptist World Alliance by phone early Saturday.

The BWA administers Liberia accounts for reconstruction of homes, resettlement of refugees and relief, said Paul Montacute, director of BWAid, the organization’s relief-and-development arm. All three accounts are in the red after several years of spending in excess of income. Montacute is asking for contributions to rebuild those funds for an anticipated humanitarian crisis.

Sam-Peal, who currently chairs BWAid, said he fears the situation in Liberia could deteriorate to the level seen in Bunia, Congo, where fighting between ethnic groups has killed thousands.

“Please ask the international community to step in now, so that further bloodshed can be avoided,” Sam-Peal told Montacute. “Please ask people to pray for our country and please continue to help us through BWAid.”

Financial donations for Liberia through BWAid should be designated “Liberia Relief,” Montacute said.

Another humanitarian organization, Church World Service, an arm of the U.S. National Council of Churches, issued a similar call last week, as fighting blocked relief agencies from getting aid to hundreds of thousands of refugees in camps around Liberia.

Liberia’s civil war between 1989 and 1994 claimed 200,000 lives. Since renewed violence erupted in 1999, more than a million residents of the nation in West Africa have been displaced, and another half million have fled to neighboring countries, according to a report in Religion News Service.

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

Click here for information about how to contribute to Liberia relief through Baptist World Aid.

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