THE GAMBIA CHRISTIAN COUNCIL:
REPORT OF THE MEETING BETWEEN THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES IN THE GAMBIA AND THE MINISTRY FOR LANDS OFFICIALS ON THE MATTER OF THE REQUEST TO CEASE BURIAL AT THE CHRISTIAN CEMETERY IN BANJUL: ON SATURDAY 20TH AUGUST 2016
Following a letter written to the Vicar General of the Catholic Mission, Rev. Father Emile Sambou, (which the Gambia Christian Council was not copied). It was agreed after further discussion that the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Lands and Religious Government would like to meet with the Heads of Churches and some Christian Elders on Saturday 20th August 2016, at 10:00am, to conduct a visit of the Christian Cemetery to ascertain if there is still space for burial of our departed loved ones.
This invitation attracted a lot of Christians across the country from all denominations – Anglicans, Methodists and Catholics. The Banjul Christian Cemetery was packed full with concerned Christians about the threat to stop burial of their families and loved ones when departed. It was estimated that over 200 Christians attended.
Consequently on arrival at the Cemetery, the Permanent Secretary (PS), Mr. Bulli Dibba was shocked as a result of the huge crowd. He however gathered some courage after quick convincing words by the General Secretary of GCC – (Mr. Julius Freeman), and few others to come and meet the crowd at the entrance of the cemetery, just in front of the Anglican Bishop’s Court. Meanwhile, Bishop James Allen Yaw Odico, Rev. Father Emile Sambou, Rev. Father Antoine Sambou, Rev. Louis Prom, Rev. Willie E.E. Carr and other clergy and lay people were all in waiting for the arrival of the Permanent Secretary.
Upon arrival of the Permanent Secretary in the midst of the Christian crowd, prayers were offered first by Rev. Louis Prom followed by fervent prayers for Peace, Unity, Love and Harmony between the Christians and Muslims in The Gambia by Bishop Odico.
The Permanent Secretary then gave a short statement about his mission and emphasized that he was a messenger that came to deliver a message which was a directive from his superiors. However, he ascertained that after the tour or visit of the cemetery whatever the outcome that will be the content of his message to his superiors. He also affirms his respect for the peace and unity between the Christians and Muslims in The Gambia over the years and hope that this co-existence continues. He mentioned that he and his officials (the Director of Lands, Mr. Buba Sanyang, and the Director of Physical Planning, Mr. Essa Camara) who accompanied him will ensure that a true and objective report will be prepared after the visit of the cemetery.
Bishop Odico appealed to the crowd to remain seated just at the entrance gate of the cemetery whilst the conducted tour will comprise of the Clergy present, Gambia Christian Council Secretary and Vice Chairperson, Mr. Vidal Lewis-Gaye (who has been advising Bishop Odico on technical matters regarding the demarcation/area of the Christian cemetery), the Permanent Secretary and Lands office Officials and 10 (ten) people from the Christian crowd that attended.
OUTCOME OF THE TOUR / VISIT OF THE CEMETERY
- It was indeed ascertained that there is enough space available for burial at the Christian Cemetery for several years to come.
- The area of the cemetery extending towards the sea/beach area has sufficient spaces that have not been utilized because of the trees, shrubs and grasses in the area. Consequently, driving on the main highway without proper inspection will not confirm the availability of spaces at the cemetery.
- Generally, there are many trees and vegetation covering the available spaces for burial that will require cutting and clearing.
- At the far end of the Christian cemetery (towards the Muslim cemetery), it was discovered that about eight (8) Christian graves were built about 2 meters beyond the Christian cemetery boundary towards the Mass grave area. The Permanent Secretary and his Officials claimed that this could be the main reason why it was perceived that the Christian cemetery was full and out of space.
- Following the complete visit of the cemetery, the Permanent Secretary and his Officials also confirmed that there was indeed a lot of space at the cemetery for future burials. They assured us that their report will clearly reflect this.
- As a result of the tour of the cemetery some Christians were concerned about the state of the cemetery (with regards to the need to clear and clean the premises). Consequently, three worthy Christian men – Mr. Aki Allen, Mr. Kwamla Elliot and Mr. James George pledged to raise funds required to improve the status of the Banjul Christian Cemetery, in order to give support to The Gambia Christian Council and the Christian community in general. This was highly appreciated and welcomed by Bishop Odico who in his closing remarks after the visit urged others if moved by the spirit to join these three men to support this laudable project.
The Meeting ended with a prayer at about 12:30pm.