By Bishop Kortu K. Brown, Chairman/Ceo, Church Aid Inc (Cai); Lead National Campaigner, Liberia’s Campaign Against Statelessness; General Chairman/Ceo, Concerned Christian Community (Ccc); Former President Of Liberia Council Of Churches; Former President, Interreligious Council Of Liberia (Ircl)
One of the simplest and humblest persons I have met in my 32 years of active relief, recovery, and development work – that has taken me to more than four (4) Continents, is the late Sheku Sillah. After he was appointed by the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) as Regional Program Manager for Africa and Asia, he sent me an email on September 24, 2019, as follows: “Greetings from Freetown and I hope this email finds you well. Am planning to travel to Monrovia (Liberia) tomorrow and would like to meet with you on Friday at your convenience, time, and venue.
If that’s fine with you, kindly let me know the time and venue for our meeting. Thanks for your understanding as the notice is very short due to my numerous engagements”. When I responded positively to his request the same day, he immediately responded: “Thanks so much Rev. Browne for your prompt response. I will contact you when I arrive prior to our scheduled meeting. Stay blessed” Sheku arrived as planned and met me the next day at my office in Brewerville, Montserrado County, that’s about 13 miles west of Monrovia, the Capital of Liberia. It was a busy day.
We had a Birth Certification program for over 700 children and other engagements. But he was patient and engaging. He wanted to know what the program was all about. I explained that Church Aid Inc. (CAI) which I serve as Chairman and CEO was leading a Campaign against Statelessness based on an International Community initiated program dubbed the #IBelong Campaign which estimates that about 15 million people in the World don’t hold citizenship or nationality in any country on the earth.
World Council of Churches (WCC) is engaged with UNHCR on this initiative and at one of their Regional Training programs in May 2016 in Ethiopia for African church leaders, I participated in representing Liberia. CAI leads the campaign which includes the local religious community, the United Nations, the Ministry of Health, the Liberia Refugee Agency, etc. Sheku immediately took an interest especially after seeing the children participating in the program.
He opined that “this was something PDA could be interested in”. He asked me to make a proposal on it and when I did on October 11, 2019, he responded: “This is to acknowledge receipt of your email regarding the registration of stateless children in Liberia. The proposal is appropriate and timely. I have forwarded same to my office for consideration”.
The proposal was approved and funding was provided to help support the awareness and engagement on Statelessness, strengthening of birth registration and certification, and the repeal of gender discriminatory nationality laws, amongst others. This will be one of his legacies in Liberia Sheku was always willing to reach out and engage and to also listen. We frequently exchanged WhatsApp messages and emails. When COVID-19 broke, he later informed us of the desire of PDA to support activities that will help raise awareness against the deadly viral disease and encourage protection measures that will help prevent the loss of lives and basic sustenance.
PDA separately provided two small grants to support the local ecumenical intervention against COVID through the Council of Churches. The assistance targeted pastors and women interested in small business support – and it was timely. COVID economically devastated Liberia like many other countries on the continent of Africa. Sheku believed in strengthening of the place of local partnership in the interventions of PDA in Africa.
On September 15, 2022, he welcomed me back to Liberia from WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany, through a text and informed me of his travel to East Africa as well: “Welcome back home. I also came yesterday from project monitoring in Malawi and Nairobi”. He earlier sent me a text while in Germany saying, “Praise the Lord.
You are a pride to many of us. May the Lord continue to bless you for your good work. Laurie should also be in the WCC meeting. Have you met her?” I have lost a friend and a partner in the promotion of PDA work in Africa, and service to humanity in general. One of the last substantial engagements we had was on our plan to strengthen a “PDA partners network” in Liberia.
“I am going to convene the PDA network soon and invite you to meet with us and plan programming for the country”, I wrote on the same day of September 15 after sharing pictures with him of our awareness program on Statelessness launched in a northern District of the Republic of Sierra Leone by Apostle Nathaniel Kambo who traveled to Liberia to be trained by CAI and the Ministry of Health on awareness-raising and birth registration during one of our training programs. Sheku replied, “Great idea. Thank you”.
Later he wrote to inquire if he could make the trip to form a part of the meeting. However, the timing was a challenge. The network is made up of previous and existing partners of PDA in Liberia on October 29, 30, and November 2, 2022, I shared my last updates with him including community peacebuilding efforts in 3 rural counties and an invitation to the 8th anniversary Commemoration of the #IBelong [Statelessness] Campaign scheduled for November 4th, 2022.
He acknowledged the messages but there was further response. I am so sorry he visited Liberia only once upon assuming the post of regional program manager. COVID prevented himWe are so saddened to hear of his sudden passing. He didn’t serve us any notice. He will surely be missed. He loved his work so much. He represented PDA so ably. He engaged on behalf of Africa and Asia so responsibly.
He served humanity so well. His family should be proud of him. He’s gone from labor to rest. We shared in their loss. May God comfort the family, friends and the PDA family which we are all a part of. They will continue to be in our thoughts and prayers. MAY HIS SOUL REST IN PEACE AND LIGHT PERPETUAL SHINE ON HIM!!!