Remembrance -- John Macarthy, Sierra Leonean community paralegal, 1961-2018

Dear Friends,

John Macarthy (@johnmacarthy) of Sierra Leone served as a community paralegal for 14 years, first with Timap for Justice and later with Namati. He died on August 24th, at the age of 57. I’d like to share this remembrance:

I feel I grew up with John Macarthy—not as children, but as people finding our purpose. He was one of the original community paralegals to work with Timap for Justice, starting in 2004. We discovered together the vitality of equipping people to take on the injustices they face. We learned together about how that might be possible, even in very difficult circumstances.

That work became John’s calling. His commitment never wavered. He helped people take on powerful interests—international companies, government officials, chiefs. He found ways to make law real and useful, even when it seemed to be a mirage.

A chief himself, John was an expert in Mende customary law. He insisted that human rights were not an imposition. Human rights are indigenous, he’d say. They’re part of our culture. When men tried to justify abusing women, he’d invoke a Mende saying, Nyahi i yeh ni a mbi ndewe va. “A woman is not a drum to be beaten.”

When he convinced a village to stop expelling people for suspected witchcraft, or when he helped poor farmers to challenge chiefs that sold their land without their consent, he invoked principles of justice from the Mende tradition. In doing so, he kept the culture alive. He helped it evolve from within.

When John spoke, people listened. His tone was calm and kind, but also firm and fearless. Over and over I saw him enter situations where people were angry or afraid; he helped them find reason and courage. He could change the climate with his voice.

For his work, John rode huge distances by motorcycle on rough roads, sometimes under wicked rain. He risked retaliation. He missed meals. He fell sick. At times he went without pay. He never stopped.

John was a joker too. He had a young boy’s sense of joy. He spoke no Hindi, but he could go toe to toe with any Bollywood aficionado. He could recite the classic Sholay from memory. Not just recite it, act it out. Playing every character.

You gave a bit of that joy to all of us John. And you advanced justice. We cannot replace you. But we will carry on the struggle you believed in. And we will love you and remember you always.

@danielsesay shared this and many other tributes from John’s teammates at a funeral in Bo, Sierra Leone on Friday.

cc: @namati_staff

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@vivekmaru My heart is paining and full of sympathies for hearing a remarkable story from My country Sierra Leone. Thank you so much for that update.

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May his Soul Rest in Peace. Too young to die With such a Great legacy pole sana @vivekmaru May his course flow and grow each day.

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May his soul rest in eternal peace.He has left a rich legacy,we need to uphold it!

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May His Soul Rest In Peace.

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May the soul of John Macarthy Rest In Eternal Peace.

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May his soul find eternal rest

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What sad news! My thoughts are with his family and friends! My his soul rest in perfect peace!

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What a beautiful tribute to an amazing person.

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Very sorry to hear this. I didn’t know him, but he sounds like a pioneer as well as a great human being.

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I have transformed @johnmacarthy’s membership account into a tribute account, for longterm remembrance of the man and his contribution to our movement. I am sorry I never had an opportunity to meet John - I am inspired and touched by the wonderful tributes and outpouring of support from the community. Thank you @vivekmaru and @danielsesay for sharing with us.

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Beautiful tribute @Vivekmaru for a worthy lived life. From Kenya, Eternal rest ‘as people finding our purpose’. God bless

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May His soul rest in peace.

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Must have missed this, may John find eternal peace, may God comfort his family.

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Very emotional story.He will remain as the role model to us

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I love that. He sounds like a wonderful man who achieved a great deal.

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