Adieu To Christine Tolbert-Norman & Rev. J. Emmanuel Z. Bowier … A Glowing Tribute By BFF & Partners


The late Rev. Bowier (center) poses with BFF Prexy & YBB Youth during a National Unification Day reception for the youth at his Peace Garden Residence in Sinkor, Monrovia on May 14, 2019

Monrovia, July 10, 2021 Tribute: Recently, death dealt a severe blow to the Liberian nation when it snatched away the precious lives of two of its venerated citizens and reservoirs of knowledge in Emmanuel Z. Bowier, former Minister of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) and Mrs. Christine Tolbert-Norman, Founder of the famous Isaac A. David School in Paynesville who is also Founder of the Restoration of Education Advancement Program (REAP).

Indeed, the untimely homegoing of these two distinguished Liberian professionals and mentors has not only created a huge vacuum to fill in the country’s  development process but will undoubtedly pose a tedious challenge for the nation’s predominately young people including members of the Better Future Foundation (BFF), Youth Beyond Barriers (YBB), Girls of Distinction (GOD), the civil society sector of Liberia, among many others who have been drinking from their respective fountains of knowledge, foresight and insight in the spheres of education, peace-building, promotion of the rights of women and girls and in the consolidation of the country’s fledging democracy.              

Although Madam Christine Tolbert-Norman has left us in this sinful world to rest in perfect peace and perpetual light with the Almighty Father in the Great Beyond, BFF and its subsidiary organizations, and the civil society sector of Liberia take comfort in her consistent words of wisdom and guidance given while she was alive that we, as Liberians, and as a government, need to embrace each other as one big family and live in peace, reconciliation and harmony for genuine national healing and unification.

The BFF and its partner organizations are vividly reminded by her salient words of caution to the Liberian nation when she served as one of five distinguished panelists at the program marking the observance of the 56th National Unification Day organized by BFF and held on May 14, 2020 in the GSA Road Community in Paynesville, outside Monrovia.

At this occasion, Mrs. Norman emphatically stated that “national unification is a process and not an event, as such, the process of unification must be led, at all times, by national leaders and other stakeholders.”

She told the forum, which included other panelists including her beloved husband Mr. Lawrence C. Norman, a senior citizen and former statesman; Sister Mary Laurene Browne (OSF), then President of the Catholic-owned Stella Maris Polytechnic University; Atty. Batholomew B. Colley, then Acting Chairman of the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR); and Alhaji David Kiazolu, former Secretary General of the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia (IRCL) that “The process of national unification must also take into consideration appropriate methods, strategies and policies in addressing crosscutting national issues for the benefit of all.”

While calling for much- needed reforms in the Liberian justice system, she made it clear that one of the factors sadly impeding national unification in Liberia is the lack of justice for all as many citizens across the country do not have explicit confidence and trust in the nation’s justice system simply because it has been awash by rampant corruption as there appears to be no justice for the poor and the powerless in the Liberian society.

Another salient point that Mrs. Norman highlighted at the said national unification program is that since the establishment of Liberia as a sovereign state, each of its national leaderships has had gains and challenges, as such, succeeding national leaderships should take cue in consolidating and expanding those positive gains made by their predecessors for sustainable peace and unification which are also impetus to national development and progress.

Beyond these mentioned assertions, the works of Madam Christine Tolbert-Norman in the spheres of education, service to the church, state, and humanity and their endearing impacts remain indelibly printed on the Liberian sand of time, and beyond, something to which BFF, YBB, GOD and collaborating partners remain exceedingly delighted and committed to promote for the benefit of current and succeeding generations of Liberians.

In his words, the Founder and President of BFF, Augustine S. Arkoi, said the late Christine Tolbert Norman was not only one of Liberia’s best and passionate educators, but an outstanding reconciler in contemporary Liberia, despite the inevitable and unjust circumstantial political casualty that was inflicted on her and family!

The BFF President said the late Christine Tolbert Norman’s loving heart of forgiveness, and capacity to harbor no RESENTMENT, and especially her unmatched passion and lifelong dedication to the EDUCATION SECTOR of Liberia will forever be remembered! In a Facebook post, Rev. Arkoi described the departed iconic educator as: “#Christine Tolbert Norman Mother Of Legacy!”

Christine Tolbert-Norman served as the Mayor of Bentol City, Liberia, where she made her home prior to her death recently. She was also an international educator, humanitarian, social entrepreneur, and advocate for peace and reconciliation, and agent of positive change. Since 2002, Christine has been working to provide hope, opportunities, and empowerment to youth, young adults, ex-combatants, widows, orphans and other marginalized groups in her home country of Liberia through her NGO Restoration of Education Advancement Programs (REAP).  Christine also served on the board of directors of the William R. Tolbert Jr. Foundation, which honors the legacy of her father, the late President Tolbert (20th president of Liberia) by providing scholarships, leadership development initiatives centered on character-based leadership and ethics in management for emerging leaders.

When the Liberian Civil War came to an end, Christine returned to Liberia to found REAP and to assist with the post-conflict reconstruction. REAP has collaborated with the government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (2011 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate) on numerous initiatives of mutual interests, particularly in the areas of education, youth and women’s empowerment, leadership development, and peace-building. REAP works in partnership with several organizations to provide educational resources to West African nations. These include Pointman Leadership Institute to provide principled-based leadership and ethics in management training to over 5,000 public and private sectors, Lifeline Children’s Services to bring help and hope to unadoptable orphans, and Freedom in Christ Ministries to bring hope and healing to thousands of youth and young adults. REAP partners with God’s Kids to impact its community with resources such as “Project Dignity” that constructs latrines to improve sanitation.

Christine Co-Founded the Isaac A. David Sr. Memorial School in Monrovia, Liberia, and served as principal for several years. From 1972 to 1980 she served as Assistant Superintendent of the Monrovia Consolidated School System and then Deputy Minister of Education for Instruction, the position she held until the time of the April 12, 1980 military coup d’etat which toppled the Liberian government. After the coup, Christine and her family settled in the Ivory Coast where she served as an educator at the International Community School of Abidjan. She started the International Friendship Center, a community and recreational center that hosted educational workshops, vocational training, athletic programs, and entertainment for youth and adults in the community.  In 1990, a civil war broke out in Liberia, forcing hundreds of thousands of Liberian refugees to flee across the border into neighboring Ivory Coast. At that time, Christine founded the Liberian Refugee Tutorial Program (LRTP), an educational establishment still in existence today.  She also convened and participated in several peace and reconciliation conferences aimed at fostering peace and unity in Liberia.

Christine, also a former Board Member of International Bank (Liberia) prior to her death served on the Board of the Monrovia Consolidated School System, Project Hannah Women of Hope, ELWA, and God’s Kids.

In the same vein, BFF, YBB and GOD indicated that the recent unfortunate and heartbreaking demise of former Information Minister, Rev. J. Emmanuel Bowier, is a huge loss to the Liberian nation because he was indisputably a reliable and dedicated statesman, historic luminary, seasoned diplomat, venerated lecturer of international relations and an unwavering peace-builder, and reconciler.

Rev. Bowier was loved for his reservoir of historical knowledge and crafting and proposing what BFF and partners believe were some of the best ways forward as it relates to Liberia’s peaceful governance, growth and development and how the country’s predominately youthful population can contribute meaningfully to national growth and development.

The Reverend James Emmanuel Zekpehgee Bowier’s unflinching patriotism and love for his country Liberia will always be remembered through his notable, quotable slogan: “one-way ticket to Monrovia,” referring to his return from exile in the United States without any further intension to reside in exile which he maintained up to his demise, says BFF President Augustine S. Arkoi.

Rev. Bowier reasoned that not many people in today’s Liberia have any fundamental orientation to win over Liberia’s global partners at home and abroad as it relates to the country’s basic development needs, a situation which he said, is partly responsible for the prevailing harsh socioeconomic challenges which the nation faces.

While calling for a paradign shift on the part of the nation, Rev. Bowier also blamed some media outlets and journalists who are apparently siding with politicians and others to denounce other well-meaning citizens and groups as the country strives for sustainable peace and development.

For us, at the Better Future Foundation, YBB, GOD and by extension the civil society sector of Liberia, strongly believe that the passing of these two great citizens and many others such as Madam Mary N. Brownell, Amb. T. Ernest Eastman etc., has created nationally irreplaceable vacuums which are extremely difficult to be filled.

We also fear that Liberia which was once a beacon of hope for development and progress not only for itself, but also the freedom and total emancipation of the African continent is seen in recent years taking a retrogressive path to a failed state.

This retrogression and eroding national legacy among the comity of nations can be attributed to the gargantuan challenge of many of its senior, experienced and globally connected citizens and reservoirs of knowledge in almost every strata of life are going to the great beyond without any surest replacement while those still alive are either ignored or underutilized.

It is out of this conviction that we resoundingly say adieu to Mother Christine Tolbert Norman and Rev. James Emmanuel Z. Bowier as both have indeed served their country and people well in their lifetime.

BFF Better Future Foundation extends profound sympathy to the Government and people of Liberia; and especially to the Norman’s and Bowier’s families for the irreparable loss of the two statesmen, including other Liberian professionals that have fallen to treatable illnesses under an overwhelming global COVID pandemic.

As we take solace in God Almighty, BFF challenges the State to endeavor more toward improved governance, bridging peace and reconciliation, to further accelerate the much-needed public trust and confidence in government to inspire patriotism, adherence to the rule of law and democratic governance in the country.

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