French soccer star Lilian Thuram meets Liberian youth in UN-backed initiative

French soccer star Lilian Thuram meets Liberian youth in UN-backed initiative

Lilian Thuram (centre)
A United Nations-backed initiative has brought French international football star Lilian Thuram to Liberia, where he encouraged thousands of youth to actively pursue peace.

Attending a series of events on Sunday, Mr. Thuram called on Liberian youth to eschew violence, drugs and war. “Violence is dangerous. To have a better life, you need peace to build and develop your beautiful and rich country,” he stated.

He also called on the youth to work to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and participated in two soccer matches involving young children, ex-combatants and amputees.

In brief remarks during an interactive forum at Monrovia City Hall attended by more than 300 national youth representatives, an official from the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) hailed Mr. Thuram as a role model.

“Your message today will have considerable impact on the young people of Liberia,” said UNMIL Officer-in-Charge Jordan Ryan, adding that engaging in sports was one of the most effective ways to promote peace.

During the visit, Liberia’s Deputy Youth and Sport Minister, Jeremiah Witherspoon, pledged the Government’s commitment to work with the UN and other development partners to ensure that issues affecting youth were kept on the national agenda.

Also participating in Sunday’s activities were UN and government officials, members of a number of national youth groups and sporting federations, as well as students, musical and traditional artists and war-affected youth.

Mr. Thuram was on a one-day visit to Liberia, organized by the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA) and facilitated by UNMIL, to boost Liberia’s Sport for Peace programme, established earlier this year to reach out to young people who were affected by the conflict which raged in their country for 14 years starting in 1989 and claimed the lives of approximately 150,000 people.

The Sport for Peace initiative was launched in March by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Adolf Ogi, the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace, and UNMIL chief Alan Doss.