Setting the stage for Commencement speaker Sirleaf’s visit

'Pray the Devil Back to Hell' tells story of Liberian women turned peacemakers

May 03, 2012

At the height of a brutal civil war, thousands of Liberian women who were tired of pillage, repression and rape stood up against the war’s instigators. Dressed in white T-shirts and armed only with the courage of their convictions, they mounted peaceful demonstrations that culminated in the 2003 exile of dictator Charles Taylor, and ultimately led to democratic election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as Africa’s first female head of state. A co-recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize now in her second term as president of Liberia, Sirleaf will be the keynote speaker and an honorary degree recipient at the UMass Worcester Commencement on June 3.

In anticipation of her visit, faculty, students and staff are invited to view Pray the Devil Back to Hell, an award-winning documentary that chronicles the key role women played in the events leading up to Sirleaf’s election. Pray the Devil Back to Hell documents the impact of ordinary women who took extraordinary action to win a once unimaginable peace for their shattered country. They include Leymah Gbowee, who was awarded the Nobel along with Sirleaf and Yemeni activist Tawakkul Karman for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.

Following the screening of Pray the Devil Back to Hell, Katherine Luzuriaga, MD, professor of pediatrics and associate provost for global health, will lead a discussion about the film and progress being made in Liberia under Sirleaf’s leadership. “We look forward to the opportunity to welcome this remarkable and inspirational woman to our campus,” said Dr. Luzuriaga, who has worked with Sirleaf during numerous trips by UMMS faculty to help rebuild Liberia’s post-war medical infrastructure.

The viewing and discussion of Pray the Devil Back to Hell are open to all, and will take place on Monday, May 14, in Amphitheatre I from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. A light lunch will be served. Preregistration online is requested.

Related links:
UMMS faculty witness history in Liberia
Launching medical education studies in Liberia
Library projects lending order to chaos in Liberia
Medical School team rebuilding health care in Liberia