02 February 2009

Acts of Courage and Unwavering Commitment

New York Times columnist Bob Herbert shares his appreciation for the power of grassroots organizing as he reviews Pray the Devil Back to Hell and the campaign of women in Liberia to end the civil war and the reign of Charles Taylor. (The movie, which the Foundation presented in a special screening in October, was produced by Abigail Disney, a former Ms. Foundation board member.) Some choice excerpts (with my emphasis) from Herbert's column: "A Crazy Dream," describe the audacity of outrageous acts in creating change:

The movie, for me, was about much more than the tragic, and then ultimately uplifting events in Liberia. It was about the power of ordinary people to intervene in their own fate.

The filmmakers Abigail Disney and Gini Reticker show us how Ms. [Leymah] Gbowee not only rallied the women at her Lutheran church to pray for peace, but organized them into a full-blown, all-women peace initiative that spread to other Christian churches -- and then to women of the Muslim faith.

The moral authority of this movement that seemed to have arisen from nowhere had become one of the significant factors pushing the warring sides to the peace table. Peace talks were eventually held in Accra, the capital of Ghana, and when it looked as if they were about to break down, Ms. Gbowee and nearly 200 of her followers staged a sit-in at the site of the talks, demanding that the two sides stay put until an agreement was reached.

A tentative peace was established, and Mr. Taylor went into exile in Nigeria. The women continued their activism. Three years ago, on Jan. 16, 2006, in an absolutely thrilling triumph for the mothers and wives and sisters and aunts and grandmothers who had worked so courageously for peace, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was sworn in as the president of Liberia -- the first woman ever elected president of a country in Africa.

Liberia is hardly the world's most stable society. But "Pray the Devil Back to Hell" reminds us of the incredible power available to the most ordinary of people if they are willing to act with courage and unwavering commitment.

Find screenings for "Pray the Devil Back to Hell."

[See also: Join the Ms. Foundation for a Special Showing of "Pray the Devil Back to Hell"]

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