Documenting the women who brought peace to Liberia

Film gives context to Commencement speaker’s place in history

By Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

May 17, 2012
  Women who protested for peace in war-torn Liberia are the subject of the award-winning documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell, shown in advance of a visit to the medical school from Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Members of the UMMS community were spellbound by the story of the women’s peace movement in war-torn Liberia as told by the award-winning documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell. The film documents the story of how a group of women stood up against the instigators of Liberia’s decades-long civil war. The women’s unrelenting but peaceful demonstrations culminated in the exile of the country’s brutal dictator and ultimately led to the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as Africa’s first democratically elected female head of state.

Pray the Devil Back to Hell was screened at UMMS on Monday, May 14, to offer insight into the milieu of President Sirleaf, who will be the keynote speaker at UMass Worcester’s 2012 Commencement ceremonies on Sunday, June 3.

“We thought it would be fitting to invite a woman under whose leadership tremendous strides are being made,” said Katherine Luzuriaga, MD, associate provost for global health and professor of pediatrics, about the choice of Sirleaf as Commencement speaker. Dr. Luzuriaga, along with other UMMS faculty, met Sirleaf during a series of trips in which UMMS resources are being put to bear on rebuilding the virtually decimated infrastructure of Liberia’s health system. “We are able to do our work in Liberia because of President Sirleaf’s focus on health care.”

Expressing her gratitude for the support exemplified by such collaborations, Sirleaf wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post, “Thanks to our partnership with the American people, we are rebuilding roads, clinics, and schools, and expanding access to electricity, water, and sanitation . . . Americans can rest assured that the generous aid they have provided to my country and others is paying off in saved lives, increased productivity and political stability.”

Related links on UMassMedNow:
UMMS faculty witness history in Liberia
Team of faculty headed to Liberia to work and celebrate
News Alert: Nobel Peace Prize winner to give 2012 Commencement address
Launching medical education studies in Liberia
Nobel Peace Prize winner has strong ties to UMMS
Library projects lending order to chaos in Liberia
Medical School team rebuilding health care in Liberia