UN intent on making progress, in Liberia, and beyond

Regarding the March 21 article, "All-female unit keeps peace in Liberia": The article highlights the trailblazing deployment by the United Nations of an all-women police unit, inspiring Liberian women to join the police force and helping redress the gender imbalance among peacekeepers worldwide.

However, the article erroneously quoted the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) as having stated that there were 30 reported cases of rape by UN personnel in the country in 2006, down from 45 in 2005. In 2006, 30 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse were reported, with two cases related to sexual assault and rape.

The decrease in the number of allegations indicates that the preventive measures taken by the mission are bearing fruit. These measures included a compulsory course for all staff about sexual exploitation and abuse.

UNMIL has also involved the Liberian government, nongovernmental organizations, and local community to raise awareness. Places known for prostitution or drugs have been declared off limits to UN personnel in Liberia. UNMIL has established a hot line to encourage people to confidentially report any allegations or complaints of sexual exploitation and abuse by its personnel.

UNMIL continues to take all allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel very seriously and will work with the government of Liberia and other partners to eradicate this abomination.
Alan Doss
Special representative of the secretary-general and coordinator of United Nations operations in Liberia
Monrovia, Liberia

Teach religion and peace, not the Bible

In response to the March 23 Opinion piece, "Teach the Bible in public schools," by Stephen Prothero: A Bible class in the hands of many teachers – such as evangelical Christians or conservative Catholics – would probably become a vehicle by which to proselytize students.

The only way a class about any religion should be taught is as a comparative study of the major world religions. Islam and Judaism also have a major impact on the life of every American today, judging by the front page of any American newspaper alone. Atheism should also be included so that each student understands that not everyone believes in a supreme being.
Gene Spinner
Crested Butte, Colo.

Rather than have Bible studies in public schools, as Stephen Prothero suggests in his March 23 Opinion piece, let's teach peace as part of the curriculum, beginning in elementary school. Let's teach children how to get along with each other. Let's give children a strong foundation in wholesome role models and skills that lead to nonviolent communication, strength of character, independent thinking, and respect. Let's teach conflict- resolution skills, mediation, personal responsibility. Let's have young students study the lives, contributions, and wisdom of great peacemakers worldwide.

Essays from Colman McCarthy, director of the Center for Teaching Peace in Washington, opened my eyes to the fact that we have been taught violence and war. Many of us can rattle off famous historical battles, generals, wars – because we were taught these things from an early age. Yet how many of us were taught about the consequences of violence and war in human terms? How many of us were taught anything about the great peacemakers? Do we even know their names? Who in public school has been teaching peace?
Katherine Morgan
Staunton, Va.

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