Gambia is a secular state, making it very possible for distinct religions to
practice freely and this is what makes us as model in religious tolerance.
As our brothers and sisters prep to celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ, the son of Mary and the New Year, we would like to wish them a happy Christmas and New Year in advance. This is the beauty of free religion; as our Scripture teaches us that there is no compulsion in religion.
Meanwhile, the Office of the President has also already declared the following days as public holidays throughout the country: Monday, 25 December 2017, Tuesday, 26 December 2017 and Monday, 1 January 2018.
The office said that the holidays are in honour of Christmas, the birthday of Jesus Christ, son of the Virgin Mary and the New Year.
One of the reasons that makes us the Smiling Coast of Africa is our religious tolerance. The fact that religious tolerance is sensitive and complex issue, dealing with requires not just a limited knowledge, but broad and fundamental to avoid stirring the minds of those who know little or nothing around the subject.
Because it’s a sensitive issue, it is not a thing to downplay as religious intolerance has sent and still sending many states and nations into unending disputes and civil unrest.
Zainab Al-Suwaij, co-founder of the American Islamic Congress once said: “We have to respect others and we have to understand and not discriminate on the basis of faith. ... When people do not talk and communicate, everything around them becomes dehumanized. ... When you mix politics and religion, you get the worst of everything.”
Christianity and Islam are two religions that that are well known in the world and in most countries like ours, they are living peacefully. But also, the reality is that the peoples of these two religions are the same people here who share the same values and culture. This is what makes us different a society.
History teachers us some of the wars that have been fought in the name of religion – from Germany Peasants’ War to the Lebanese Civil War and from the Nigerian Civil War to the Sudanese First and Second Wars.
The Sudanese First Was is also referred to as the Anyanya I, because of the rebels who participated in the war. It was fought on the Sudan borders in between the military of Sudan and the Anyanya guerrilla forces. It’s a rough estimate that about 10,000 soldiers participated from both sides, and that it lasted for more than 16 years, starting from 1955 and ending at 1972. It was only fought because of ethnic and religious difference between Muslims and Christians. The worst thing about the First Sudanese Civil War is that, by the time it was over, there were already more than half a million deaths of soldiers and civilians.
“As Christians around the world celebrate Christmas day with thanksgiving and prayers, President Adama Barrow called on Gambians to continue to be the shining example of the world for peaceful co-existence between Christians and Muslims,” press release from state house stated.
We therefore once again wish our Christian brothers and sisters a joyous Christmas and New Year.
“Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection.”