Sep 12, 2012, 9:47 AM
Knights of the Fraternal Order of Saints Peter and Paul have been in existence for about 20 years in The Gambia. Their main charism is giving service to each other first and to their fellow humanity. The group of forty men are now bent on raising funds to join others for the cementing of the Old Jeshwang Christian Cemetery. The Gambia Christian Council is the pivot of the whole Christian Cemetery and other Christian activities. The Saint Peter and Paul Society now seeks to consolidate the effort of the Christian Council by providing funds for their Cemetery Project. They have therefore taken up the challenge to embark on Sponsored Walk that took them from the Traffic Light and to their building just after Glory Baptist Senior Secondary, close to the Stadium in Bakau. Austin Kanjia followed the story and writes.
The Old Jeshwang Cemetery came about in 1981 during the coup d'etat when the first 32 people killed in the coup were taken to that Cemetery. Soon after that the Muslims started operating there by burying their dead, thus the Cemetery began eroding. The Cemetery then had intruders from that time. George Gomez says, "The Christian Cemetery had intruders but the local government had stopped it. The area that is left has not been fenced. We have now decided to take the initiative to encourage the Christian community so that the dead will have a proper rest. If we don't do that tombs may be desecrated. We have now decided to encourage others. The Sponsored Walk is to bring awareness to encourage others to see reason to help thus the printing of t-shirts. We are hoping that all other Churches persons and groups will help because it is for all."
Lawrence Bruce, the Supreme Knight (President) of the Fraternal Order of Saint Peter and Paul says, "We help the poor and deprived of society, and give support to the office of the Bishop of Banjul. We are concerned with the construction of the Old Jeshwang Christian Cemetery," he said. Lawrence Bruce making emphasis on the Sponsored Walk said they are doing it to facilitate the construction of the perimeter wall fence of the Old Jeshwang Christian Cemetery. "We have tasked ourselves to mobilise to do the Sponsored Walk. We have realised that we can't do it alone, we have started it so that other Christians can come and join to be able to construct the fence. We are sending the message through the media to reach out for support for all and sundry."
Aware of the encroachment by people and animals that go grazing at the Cemetery, the Saint Peter and Paul Society has seen reason to secure the place against these intruders. The Society noticed the Christian Council as the umbrella body of all Christians in The Gambia. And that they know about the Cemetery and at some point will do something. "I know some other Christians will do something and parishes will do too. This is not a totally Christian affair because in The Gambia we all have intermarriages between us," Lawrence Bruce said.
Matthew Ndure another member said the Christian Cemetery at Old Jeshwang was given to the Christians in a long time and the land has been lying down there until good part of it was encroached on. To avoid the encroachment now, there has been the decision and we want it to be a concerted effort. The Christian Council is involved, we are just spearheading the action and we are hoping that some people will help. He says, "One of our major donors is a Muslim. The Sponsored Walk is one of the activities and we hope to raise enough to make an impact. As a body we have done something towards the project this is just an addition and we are only catalysts to secure it from encroachers, animals and others. We have to plan the Cemetery so that we can have people buried in a proper way rather than haphazardly." Matthew Ndure pointed out that their sponsors were from a cross section of the community including their Muslim friends and through Gambian spirit we hope that people will come on board and help this worthy venture.
The Saint Peter and Paul Society are thankful to all those who have helped contribute towards the fencing of the Christian Cemetery. They are thankful to GHE Farm Products for their tremendous effort in supporting them on their Sponsored Walk and more.
The Christian Cemetery area at Old Jeshwang has problem of fence and encroachment that is easily noticed. Other problems as noticed by the Christian youth of the area including the poor burial system. The youth indicated that people come from afar to bury their loved ones, with the tears in their eyes they are not buried in line with others. They say the old man in charge of the cemetery is now too old. The other problem noticed there is that some cement used is over mixed with sand, which renders the graves weak. With heavy down pour of rains, the graves become vulnerable and the tombs are left broken and open, exposed to heavy rains leaving some corpses lying in water with the top of the said grave exposed. This invites carnivorous animals, if they are not already there. Christians cherish their dead if such is not looked into then after the fencing grave repairs would be the next project. Remember, "A stitch in time saves nine."