By Esther Wright
LEGAL LINKS (Christian Lawyers Centre), a nonprofit legal advocacy group that seeks to defend the rights of religious communities and vulnerable groups in Sierra Leone, has offered an opportunity to 150 people to be trained on legal education.
The training of 150 church leaders and administrators conducted the Legal and Compliance Course in the West of Freetown on Friday 25th October 2019. The training took place at Wilberforce Baptist Church in Wilberforce and was organised against the backdrop of cases currently being handled by LEGAL LINKS. These cases bothered on the non – registration of churches, illegal acquisition of land, properties and real estates as well as the non – payment of Nassit contributions and end of service benefits to employees.
This is done to reduce the number of cases in court against the church and to further broaden the knowledge and horizon of church leaders on the various laws and procedures regarding acquisition of land, properties and real estates as well as the handling of staff employment matters.
Speaking at the occasion, Executive Director of LEGAL LINK, Rashid Dumbuya Esq, said with the help of a few other lawyers, interns and some pastors the training was quite timely. A similar training was earlier conducted for churches in the East of Freetown and when completed it will surely meet the 2019 target of training 1,000 pastors and church administrators on legal compliance issues in Freetown, stated Mr. Rashid Dumbuya.
The course taught six important modules during the training session and the first one dealt with the understanding of the processes involved in setting up and registration of churches in Sierra Leone; the second was on church acquisition of properties; the place of conveyance, lease agreements, tenancy agreements, deed of gifts, Wills and Letters of Administration.
The third module was about Church ethics; the fourth was about Church handling of labour and staff employment matters: understanding the Minimum wage law, Nassit Act and the Income tax Act. The fifth module concerns Church versus politics and governance while the sixth module was about Church versus court proceedings.
Mr. Dumbuya who is also a lecturer on international human rights law delivered modules 1,2,4, & 6 while Pastor Paul Ken Bockarie, a board member of LEGAL LINK lectured modules 3 and 5 respectively.
Various legal interns and volunteers working at LEGAL LINK also participated in the training. The training was done through power point presentations and participants took notes on the various topics that were being discussed.
Testimonies about the legal challenges being encountered in court by various churches regarding land acquisition, non-registration and wrong handling of employment matters captivated the audience and made the training of immense significance.
Several participants that took part in the programme commended LEGAL LINK for coming up with such a timely training for pastors in Freetown where land conflicts have become a great challenge for the church. They encouraged and called on LEGAL LINK to roll out similar trainings in the provinces so that pastors there can benefit from this all important training.
The training ended at 5pm with prayers for the members of LEGAL LINK as well as the distribution of certificates to all participants of the programme. The Executive Director further thanked the senior pastor and members of the Wilberforce Baptist church for hosting the programme as well as the organizing committee for their sacrifice in putting modalities together for a successful outcome of the conference. He further promised that such trainings will be replicated over to the other regions in Sierra Leone come next year.