Over the next several weeks we will be highlighting each location Royal Servants is travelling to this summer. We will only just scratch the surface of what makes each location unique, but we hope you enjoy learning more about these fascinating locales…
Sierra Leone – 5 Things To Know
1. The Lioness Mountains
You might be wondering… How exactly did a small African nation end up with an Italian name? Well, I am glad that you asked. One of the first Europeans to explore the West African coast was Pedro de Sintra, a portuguese explorer, who In 1462 mapped the hills surrounding what is now Freetown Harbor. He named the area Serra Leoa, which means Lioness Mountains, because of the shape formed by the hills. Then, in the 16th century, Italian mapmakers consulted with Alvise Cadamosto, another explorer of the West African coast. Cadamosto referred to Serra Leoa in his Italian mother tongue as Sierra Leone and that is what was printed on the maps. It has stuck ever since.
2. Freetown and the Cotton Tree
In 1792 over 1,100 former American slaves left Nova Scotia, crossed the Atlantic Ocean and reached Sierra Leone with the purpose of building a settlement. They appropriately named this place Freetown. Once the land had been cleared it is believed that they gathered together under a large cotton tree to pray, sing hymns, and thank God for their deliverance to this free land. Today the Cotton Tree is seen as a symbol, not just for Freetown, but all of Sierra Leone.
One of the more difficult aspects of Sierra Leone’s history involves the booming diamond industry. Since their discovery in Sierra Leone in the 1930’s, diamonds have been critical in financing corruption and the personal wealth of few, at the expense of many. Additionally, diamonds played a large part in the civil war (1991-2002), when diamond profits helped fund rebels purchases of weapons and ammunition against the government and civilians. These are most frequently referred to as “conflict diamonds”.
4. Rockin’ the Radio
Not only is radio the most popular media source in Sierra Leone, it is also the most trusted. There are several factors for this. Being a developing nation, access to technology such as television, the internet, or smart phones is incredibly limited. Literacy is also an issue. Though literacy has been climbing since 2000, less than half of Sierra Leoneans can read or write and this makes print media largely inaccessible. Enter the radio. The Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) was created by the government in 1934, the first English language radio broadcast in West Africa. Today there are no less than a dozen local stations throughout the country, reaching 85% of the population.
5. The Truth
Less than 20% of the nation claims to be Christian and nearly 80% of Sierra Leoneans claim to be Muslim, though most of these are nominal. The few remaining individuals are committed to a variety of animistic and indigenous beliefs. Royal Servants partners with Youth for Christ Sierra Leone to share the Gospel of Truth with the suffering, the impoverished and the orphaned. Sierra Leoneans love having conversations which provide a great opportunity to engage with the truth of Jesus Christ.