As the war between the government’s Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) and Charles Taylor’s rebel National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) escalated in the spring and summer of 1990, Liberian civilians flooded into humanitarian aid centers and churches throughout the capital city in search of sanctuary from the growing violence. The Red Cross and the Liberian Council of Churches set up shelters, including St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Monrovia, to house nearly 9,000 internally displaced people.
As rebel forces gained strength, the Armed Forces of Liberia grew more brazen and increasingly attacked civilians, specifically targeting members of the Mano and Gio tribes, who were perceived as loyal to Charles Taylor’s rebel movement. By late July, as many as 2,000 civilians—mostly from the Mano and Gio tribes—were sheltering in the Lutheran Church compound, sleeping in the church, its courtyard, and a school building in the compound. On the night of July 29, 1990, as NPFL forces closed in on Monrovia, AFL soldiers stormed the crowded St. Peter’s Lutheran Church compound and attacked the approximately two thousand civilians taking shelter inside.
Men, women, and children were gunned down as they attempted to flee. Many who survived the initial rounds of shooting were hacked to death with machetes as soldiers spread out over the compound, ensuring the slaughter was complete. Some people, including our clients, survived by hiding under piles of dead bodies until the soldiers left. Most sources estimate that over 600 civilians died over the course of that night.