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(© Michael Angelo for Wonderland)

Pray the Devil Back to Hell

A woman’s voice calls out from the screen: “If I get killed, just remember I was fighting for peace.” So rings the pivotal message of the riveting new film, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, which recently premiered to critical acclaim at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival. This must-see documentary recounts the story of thousands of ordinary women who successfully banded together amidst the human wreckage of a decades-long civil war in Liberia to demand peace.

“The media too often portrays women in Africa as helpless victims,” says Leymah Gbowee, who is featured prominently in the film and who is a driving force behind her community’s grassroots activism. “This film has created an opportunity for me to showcase what African women can and have been doing in conflict situations.”

And what Gbowee herself has done is remarkable. Recognizing that “religion has a major role to play in ending violence in Africa,” Gbowee inspired Liberian women of Muslim and Christian faiths to summon their belief in prayer and dedicate themselves to the nonviolent protests that rocked a nation.

Pray the Devil follows Gbowee as she leads her group, Liberian Mass Action for Peace, into a meeting with Liberia’s infamous dictator Charles Taylor. Its resolution reminds us that with courage, conviction, and a little bit of creativity, communities of women can effect large-scale breakthroughs in conflict zones.

“The atrocities committed in Liberia before and during the war were devastating,” Gwobee explained. “I personally believe that we as a people have not embarked on that journey to healing and reconciliation yet.”

Pray the Devil Back to Hell may be one of the first steps in this journey. To request a screening in your area, visit praythedevilbacktohell.com.

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