The coastal belt of mangrove swamps, mountains, and wooded hills are painted on the West African nation of Sierra Leone. The tropical and humid nation is located along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and lies between Guinea and Liberia. Founded as a home for free slaves in 1797, the capital, Freetown, still testifies today of the nation’s original purpose.
The Republic of Sierra Leone gained independence in 1961 from Great Britain and now functions as a constitutional democracy. Between 1991 and 2001 the nation was plagued by civil war, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths and nearly 2 million people being displaced. Those living in the nation are often reminded of the past when they see the many without arms or legs, a trademark of the rebels. In addition, over 10,000 child soldiers were used in this conflict. United Nations peacekeepers left the nation in 2005, and the military assumed responsibility of peace and safety efforts. The nation is recovering, though unemployment is as high as 80%, and only one third of the nation is literate. Yet signs of growth are evident, due in part to a new stable government.
Though Sierra Leone became the first West African nation to be evangelized in 1785, a mere 13% of the population identifies with Christianity today. Sixty percent of the population identifies with Islam and is steadily showing growth, though the government of Sierra Leone allows the freedom of religion. Various occult practices and other ethnic religions are commonly combined with both Islam and Christianity. There are many Christian organizations in the nation aiding in physical, emotional, and psychological healing from the civil war. However, many churches are ill equipped to also tend to the needs of the community as few leaders have training, and many have not even gained any secondary education. Christian radio is vital to reach the many illiterate people in this recovering nation.