EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, The Gambia: President Adama Barrow has encouraged Gambians to be active promotes of collaboration across religion and diversity in development projects, cooperate to eliminate crime and subversion, and to strive to reinforce peaceful co-existence.
Delivering his Christmas message on Tuesday, The Gambian leader said the country has already made a solid cultural foundation to help it act and build on the values that cut across civic, social and religious lives. “We have the opportunity to tear down the barriers to peaceful coexistence, the barriers to progress and success, and the barriers to advancement as individuals and as a people with a common purpose and destiny. These opportunities must not be wasted for any reason.”
He said Christmas is a special occasion that brings happiness to both the young and old, as it rekindles homes and communities with warmth, and inspires people to look forward to the year ahead with hope. “For The Gambia, Christmas is one of the occasions that truly demonstrate the religious harmony that Gambians are renowned for.”
His message touching religion came at a time when Muslims and Christians in the country share a bond of contention for and against the inclusion of the word ‘secular’ in the country’s draft constitution which was released last month.
The Christian denomination claimed that they are have been unfairly treated by the Muslim majority and demand for the country to be declared a secular state in the new constitution and for the government not to participate in religious affairs, while the Muslims governing body insist that Gambia has not and should never be a secular state.
“On behalf of the entire Gambian community, I take much pleasure in congratulating the Christian community on this joyous occasion. In particular, I congratulate all the dioceses in the country and The Gambia Christian Council for the spiritual uplift and successes they have realised over the years. I particularly thank them for the messages of peace they have been preaching over the past weeks and months. I urge them to continue preaching peace throughout the Christmas season and beyond. I commend them also for working closely with my Government and for dispensing their civic responsibilities as good Christians and citizens of our beloved nation,” Mr Barrow said.
The Gambian leader maintained that religion plays an important role in ‘our’ lives; and that ‘we’ cannot avoid according it the significance it deserves, saying religion is part of The Gambia’s diverse cultural heritage, and it adds meaning to life through the values it teaches and the manner it shapes and modifies behaviour. “This makes the role of religious leaders critical.”
He encourage all venerable leaders to remain steadfast, with the reassurance that his government acknowledges their contribution to the country’s development, progress and overall wellbeing.
“We are all aware of the grave distortions of religious teachings as excuse for extremism, leading to evil, social disorder, instability and loss of lives. We must not allow this to take root here.”
He said his Government will continue to play its part to adhere to the principles of good governance, based on justice and the rule of law without discrimination or prejudice against any citizen or any section of the Gambian nation, saying they will remain undeterred in upholding the spirit of the Constitution and the Laws of the country, while implementing the National Development Plan that Gambians have developed together as a nation to attain ‘our’ development goals and aspirations.
“The dignity of the people has to be maintained through reason, dialogue and strengthening interfaith collaboration, therefore Christmas is a reminder for us to continue to propagate the true teachings of Jesus Christ.”
He said with reference to the past, much has been revealed already at the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission but yet, a lot more remains buried in history waiting to be told, saying that stories of injustice, greed or civil unrest are never pleasant. “The aftermath of confrontation and violence is always bitter for even those who claim victory. Therefore, reason dictates that as civilised communities, we resolve our differences through lawfully established norms. In this way, the nation would always gain victory over all rebellious individuals or factions. The numerous nations whose development paths have been derailed or halted due to unrest provide historical lessons for us.”
According to him, as a priority, his Government maintains a focused attention on creating, sustaining and expanding the public space for responsible participation in national development.
“As we enjoy the Christmas festivities, let us exploit the moment to re-energize ourselves in readiness for the coming year so that we can maximize our output and achievements. I pray that we remain united and committed to the tenets of our religions, but mindful of the values upon which our heritage and institutions rest and the regulations that govern each of them.”