BISHOP ROBERT PATRICK ELLISON OF THE CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF BANJUL ISSUES POST ELECTORAL LETTER TO THE CATHOLIC LAITY
The head of the Catholic Diocese of Banjul, His Lordship Robert Patrick Ellison has issued a pastoral letter to the Catholic laity of The Gambia following the elections and change of Government in The Gambia. It is to be recalled that Bishop Ellison stood firm against the declaration of The Gambia as an Islamic State and in the process took on Yahya Jammeh and his government. For his stance according to sources close to Jammeh, the latter considered declaring the Bishop Person Non Grata and was prevailed upon by two Cabinet Ministers. No threat was going to stop the Roman Catholic Bishop as was clearly demonstrated when he became the first religious leader to pay a courtesy call on President Elect Barrow. In similar fashion, before the elections, the Bishop wrote to all Catholics and urged them to vote for the person that would guarantee their religious freedom and indeed, they did.
Gainako received a copy of the communique and we reproduce it here-under, verbatim.
POST ELECTORAL PASTORAL LETTER; 29TH JANUARY 2017: 4th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME.
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Since the results of the presidential elections that took place on the 1st December 2016, The Gambia’s very first change of Government through the ballot box took place. However, just one week after this good news, the country as a whole experienced a sudden fear and uncertainty which resulted with many people fleeing to neighbouring countries for safety. Fortunately, diplomacy prevailed over military intervention by restoring the wish of the Gambia people.
Indeed, this cloud of anxiety has hovered over us as Christians since the declaration of The Gambia as an Islamic State – initially on the 10th December 2015 and then even more seriously around the 24th July 2016. Even though this unfortunate event has profoundly challenged our religious freedom as a minority, it has at the same time also strengthened our faith. It has forced us to close our ranks as Christians by praying in our homes, in our Churches and especially with the National Prayer Assemblies for all Christians in The Gambia – pleading to our ‘God of mercy and compassion, slow in anger and abounding in love and truth’. Even more so, it has enkindled within us the Holy Spirit – the urge and the decision to make serious choices and to stand for the defence of our faith as well as our religious rights.
I have been truly encouraged by your determination and pride in being ‘Christians’ …..This was all the more evident among the youth who visibly hung their rosaries and crosses around their necks without shame or fear. They were also clearly present in their numbers in all prayer assemblies and liturgical celebrations. They deserve our commendation and encouragement as they continually affirm their status and position as committed Christians.
Our prayers have been answered. And we must never forget to thank God for His care and concern for our small country. The G.C.C. is about to organise another special National Day of Prayer in the near future – this time in thanksgiving to the God of Mercy. But now, the real game begins; to strive and work and pray.
We must forge ahead and consolidate our achievements. Above all, we must continually make our presence positively felt as ‘Christian’ wherever we are – and whatever we do.
As we are about to usher in our third Republic, I encourage you to continuously pray for our beloved country, in our homes and liturgies, for the Lord to give us strength and wisdom. There are challenges to be faced as we collaborate in rebuilding our nation and re-establishing our democratic and secular rights.
I say ‘thank you’ to each and every one of you for your genuine commitment to ‘standing up as a Christian to be counted’. I pray also that we can look forward to the day when, as Christians, and especially our youth, that we could become more involved in the political arena of our country. Let us contribute our quota in shaping this great nation as meaningful and lasting change can better be effected from within. ‘The Kingdom of God is within you’.
During the very tense week which ended on the 21st January, the whole (world, almost?) was following The Gambia in a way in which it has never happened before. I believe that many of those ‘onlookers’ were waiting for that final decision as much as you or myself. And when the final result was one of peace and not bloodshed, I believe that the reputation of the people of The Gambia has soared.
Praise to the Lord, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
Yours in Christ,
+Robert P. Ellison, CSSp,
BISHOP OF BANJUL.
Gainako wishes to add its voices to the many that have congratulated Bishop Ellison and the Gambian Catholic Diocese for the stance they took against tyranny. Taking a line from a favourite Catholic wollof song, we say, “dae date, day date muka mos!”