The Gambian Christian Peoples Association (GCPADC) of the metropolitan Washington DC have strongly condemned President Yahya Jammeh’s unilateral decision declaring The Gambia an Islamic State. In a strongly worded letter addressed to Gambian Ambassador, Sheikh Omar Faye, the organization made their position explicitly clear; ” We strongly believe that dividing us along lines of religion or tribe is not only un-Gambian, but also treacherous. We will continue in our most modest way to reaffirm that most fundamental of truths: That we are all God’s children. Therefore, mere tolerance of different religions is not enough. Our respective faiths summon us to embrace our common humanity. We share the task of expressing our religious faith in a way that seeks to build bridges rather than to divide”. We reproduce below the full text of the letter addressed to Gambian Ambassador, Sheikh Omar Faye.
“We The Gambian Peoples’ Christian Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. (GCPA-DC), would like to respectfully state our unmitigated and unyielding opposition to the Republic of the Gambia being declared an Islamic State.
Mr. Ambassador, you have graciously attended a few of our events and are quite aware of who we are regarding our mission, vision and values. They are available for all to see on our website:www.gcpadc.com. To the rest of the world, we are Gambian nationals living in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area where we are known for our abiding belief in the transformative power of education. We support this mission with our generous flagship scholarship program. Our organization’s vision is to be a catalyst for change in Gambia by sponsoring and promoting educational excellence through scholarships, literacy programs, and skills development.
The inception of these programs in 2005 came about through the wisdom of Michael J. Cleary, the Roman Catholic Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Banjul, This notable Educator and Principal of St. Augustine’s High School, dedicated his life to academic excellence and the culture of sports. He fervently believed that the best way to influence lives was through education. As of fiscal year 2015, we completed a decade of successfully achieving our primary goal of awarding almost 200 academic scholarships to Gambian students at the University of The Gambia, at tertiary institutions, and at secondary and primary schools, based not on religion but on academic performance and financial need.
With this letter, our organization has decided to vocalize its opposition in very clear and honest terms. The essence of who we are as Gambians is what is under assault with this declaration, and silence is therefore not an option. Silence is a hypocritical response. We believe that we are at a crossroads in our history, and that honesty is the key to addressing our exceptional religious tolerance that is the envy of most of the world. In our humble view, the rationale for the declaration of an Islamic state is unclear. It lacks both an intellectual and spiritual foundation, in the same way that the declaration of The Gambia as a Christian state would lack an intellectual and spiritual foundation in our religiously plural society.
We strongly believe that dividing us along lines of religion or tribe is not only un-Gambian, but also treacherous. We will continue in our most modest way to reaffirm that most fundamental of truths: That we are all God’s children. Therefore, mere tolerance of different religions is not enough. Our respective faiths summon us to embrace our common humanity. We share the task of expressing our religious faith in a way that seeks to build bridges rather than to divide. As Gambian nationals, we have to stay true to our core values, and that includes freedom of religion for all people, even though the declaration states that “…nothing will change…” in terms of our religious freedoms. We have seen sectarian violence in Niger and Chad, among our own neighbors in West Africa, where religion is being used as a tool for power and control. The negative impact on the welfare of their citizens is widely publicized and indisputable. This is especially true in Niger where 60 churches were burnt just because the Prime Minister showed support for France during the Charlie Hebdo incident. We believe that impartiality of the states the best protection for all religious faiths because it protects the state from those who want to take over the state using religious animosity as a tool for their own ends.
We also salute our Muslim brothers and sisters, including those in the diaspora, who are in the majority and who made known their unwavering support and solidarity in promoting and embracing freedom of religion for all through various social media. We thank you, for your engaged and responsible leadership role in stating that an attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths. And further, that when any religious group is targeted and reduced to a minority status, then we all have a responsibility to speak up.Again, we want to express our undying appreciation to you. Thank you for your courage in saying “Not in my Name” in your hash tags and for rejecting politics that seeks to manipulate prejudice or bias or to target people because of religion. For the very few who have celebrated this very un-Gambian turn of events, we still hope that, in time, we will win their hearts and minds. We hope to convince them that a secular state is in their best interest and that of future generations. We also hope your calculated political expediency will not triumph in history. We continue to embrace you as one of us.
GCPA cannot be silent, or be a bystander to an unprecedented and convoluted turn of events in Gambian affairs. We have a moral obligation to ensure that Gambia continues to be a secular state, which respects and protects all faiths. As hurtful as and alien as the declaration is—because it betrays our core values and who we are–we will continue to do what is best for our beloved REPUBLIC OF THE GAMBIA. We hope and pray that we will continue to be a pluralistic democratic state with a positive vision and outlook for economic and social progress.
Thank you very much.
GCPA Washington DC Metro Area
Cc: The Most Reverend Hanna Faal Bishop of the Methodist Diocese of The Gambia and Chairperson Gambia Christian Council
The Most Reverend Robert P. Ellison Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of The Gambia
The Most Reverend Bishop James Odico Bishop of the Anglican Archdiocese of The Gambia
Knights of Saint Peter and Paul
United States Department of State Erin King, Desk Officer Republic of The Gambia” ENDS
Indeed the Christian community in the metro DC area like their Christian brethren in Banjul have made their voices heard. Its never too late to stand up for your rights, and we hope all other Christian organizations in the Diaspora will follow suit and speak up on this issue of great concern to all genuine and peace loving Gambians.