Originally created 09/15/03

Georgia pastor bound for Liberia to help brother lead country



DECATUR, Ga. -- As pastor at a postcard-pretty Episcopal church in suburban Atlanta, Canon Burgess Carr is used to a life of peace and tranquility.

That might change dramatically on Wednesday, when the 68-year-old Carr returns home to Liberia to help his brother, Gyude Bryant, lead the African nation some have described as the most dangerous country on earth.

"I get in my car this morning and I come down (U.S.) 78, and I don't have any fear that someone is going to put a bomb under my car," said Carr, who is vicar of St. Timothy's Episcopal Church in Decatur. "I don't have to worry about anything."

In Liberia, there could be a host of worries: concern over opening a parcel that could contain a bomb; looking over the shoulder because of possible lurking assassins; confronting drugged-out teenage boys with AK47s who have seen their mothers raped and murdered.

Bryant, Carr's younger half-brother, has been charged with trying to break a 20-year cycle of violence in Liberia as he heads the country's interim government until elections in October 2005.

His tenure comes after 14 years of civil war that wrecked the economy, killed thousands and turned much of the population into refugees.

Carr's mission is to help persuade Liberians to renounce violence. He will help form a new government and attend his brother's inauguration on Oct. 14 before returning to his Stone Mountain home.

An expert in conflict resolution, Carr has helped negotiate the end of civil wars in Sudan, Nigeria and Ethiopia. In 1973, he was recommended for the Nobel Peace Prize. He counts South African leader Nelson Mandela as a personal friend.

Carr concedes that he is wary of what awaits him in Liberia.

"Your faith is challenged in ways that you can only dream about here," he said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Asked why he is taking such a risk, he grasped for words before saying: "It has to be done by somebody."

Challenging those who cause suffering is one of the ways to cope with it, Carr said.

"Jesus said, 'What I tell you in secret, proclaim from the housetops,"' he said. "He was talking about injustice and cruelty.

"I feel energized by the fact that my life has not been spent in navel-gazing, but doing concrete things to make life better for people. That's the work of Christ," Carr said.