'I'm Not Muslim' - Weah Renounces Islamic Faith
The Analyst (Monrovia)
November 30, 2004
Posted to the web November 30, 2004
-Says He Joined Islam For Convenience
This has been described in the Liberian parlance as the "monkey jumps from tree to tree" type of religious faith. George Manneh Oppong Weah, the newest aspirant who took Monrovia by storm last Wednesday has somersaulted, denouncing the Islamic faith that he adopted years ago when he played football in France.
Following his conversion to Islam, Weah was christened "Ousman" and has since been known in Islamic circles by that name as indication of conversion. But as The Analyst's Sub Editor Ellis Togba reports, Weah has reverted to Christianity again and is now singing the song of the Christians as a convert. "What influenced his decision, politics, true conviction, or lack of direction?" is the question many are asking.
Saudi Arabia probably may not have done much to have Oppong stick to the Islamic religion that he told the world he was converted to while playing soccer in the French city of Monaco.
And to the utmost surprise of Christians and Muslims alike, Ambassador Weah declared at the Jireh International Church, last Sunday, that he is now a Christian and not a Muslim he was.
Weah's declaration was based on a question posed to him by Mother Esther Nyumah, founder and overseer of the Jireh International Church in this fashion: "Amb.> Weah, we want you to tell us whether you are a Muslim or a Christian." Without a stutter Weah answered: "I am a Christian. I only did that [became a Muslim] because some people were putting pressure on." "Which Church do you belong to?" She asked.
"This Church," Weah answered thus completely holding his follower spellbound and confused.
Giving reason for converting to Islam, Weah claimed that his decision at the time was a matter of convenience when he was playing soccer for the AS Monaco in France.
Incidentally, Weah was converted to Islam under the influence of his former manager, Mohammed Siliby, himself a Muslim.
Many people raised questions recently when Weah attended his welcome and thanksgiving service at the Sinkor Assembly of God, where Bishop Isaac Winker prayed for him and invoked God's guidance and blessing upon him.
Before the clarification, it was rumored in many circles that Weah was a member of the Catholic Church.
With this latest development, the debate about his religious background has been put to rest.
The Sunday worship service at the Jireh Church was surprisingly graced by another presidential aspirant, Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
Whether the appearance of the two aspirants in the church to which none of them belonged prior to Weah's confession is by design or accident is not known up to press time.
Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf (compactly attired in an African dress) and Mr. Weah (in long white sleeves shirt with dark trousers) were seated not too far apart from one another on the pulpit (altar), sandwiched by the Pastor of the Church Mother Esther Nyemah.
Following soul stimulating songs from the praise and worship team and choir, then came the hour for the word, the infallible word of God as Mother Nyemah put it.
The two presidential confidants flipped the pages of their bibles to search for books, chapters as Mother Nyumah called.
The ClarTV cameraman focused the two personalities as they meandered through various pages to get the real books, chapters and verses.
Weah was seeing having an easy ride while his presidential colleague fumbled a bit to find Hebrew.
"Who says that woman knows Bible," remarked a female viewer who keenly watched Ellen.
Before getting to the core of her message, Mother Nyemah expressed dismay at the state of affairs in Liberia.
According to her, the masses of the people were suffering and therefore urged the government to apply the nation's resources prudently for the good of the citizens.
"I am meeting with Chairman on Wednesday and I will squarely put the issues to him," she said, adding that she fears nothing because God was on her side.
She also revealed that sometimes ago she met with the Minister of Commerce, Mr. Samuel Wlue and asked him whether they truly came to "redeem or suppress." From that, the Pentecostal preacher beaming with razzmatazz focused on the crux of her message, taken from the first book of the Holy Book, Genesis.
The focus of her sermon was on God's ability to transform or deal with people when they are in the madness.
She made specific reference to Joseph, the dream interpreter, and Abraham both great men of God who He dealt with in their desperate situation because they did not forsake Him or break the Covenant She used the time to refute rumors that Oppong became member of her church because he contribution to the construction of the church's edifice.
Mother Nyemah told the congregation that she built the church from donations from friends and other philanthropists.
"When Oppong saw the work, he said ma thank you. I said to him bring your contribution too," she said as the cameraman focused Weah beaming with smiles.
Weah who recently expressed his intention for the chief magistracy of the land following of weeks consultations with relatives, friends and other dignitaries returned home last week and received a heroic welcome.
Upon arrival in town, he proceeded to the Sacred Hearts Cathedral on Broad Street for another intercessory service.
For Madam Sirleaf, she was one of the 13 candidates in the 1997 special elections won by the former President Charles Taylor. Ellen came second in that election.
Since Weah threw in the bid for the nation's highest office, there has been wrangling here and outside over his capability to lead a country torn apart by convulsion and a people still nursing the wounds of war.
Besides his academic qualification debate, others questioned his faith. There are arguments that he cannot become president because he is a Muslim while others argued that that has nothing to do with religion as Liberia is a secular state.
For Ellen, the atmosphere is calm. There is no religious conflict and there is no problem of academic qualification.
But many feel that she is one of those who plunged Liberia into its current debacle, although she has denied that from time to time.