By Edward Francis Dalliah
The leader of the Gambia’s Christian Council and the Bishop of the Methodist Church urged Gambians to embrace tolerance, neighbourliness and unity in the country. Speaking from the Wesley Cathedral in Banjul in front of members of the press on 22nd December 2023, the Most Revd Bannie E. F. Manga preached that “religion must be premised on love for oneself and neighbour” adding that “it cannot thrive in confusion and hatred”.
The Gambia which is also referred to as the smiling coast of Africa has two main religions, Islam which is the majority, and Christianity the minority. In addition, others still practice traditional religions in some parts of the country.
Bishop Manga enthused that “our national religions as I know it in experience and our studies do not promote in any shape or form the new faces of religious intolerance and discords that seemingly want to promote itself in the Smiling Coast of Africa (The Gambia)”.
Therefore, he urged all to “stop passing judgment on one another”. Instead, he urged all to make up our minds “not to put any stumbling blocks or obstacles in the way of our brothers and sisters”. The Chairperson of the Christian faith “emphasized that this nation will and cannot develop if we continue to put stumbling blocks or obstacles before ourselves”. In his view “we must be seen to live as Gambians if our nation must evolve into a better phase of itself”.
During his speech, the Bishop highlighted that “the Gambian concept of neighbourliness comes to mind. In this concept, we associate and identify with one another in all spheres of Life. It is for this reason that in our nation, Christmas resonates with all within the jurisdiction, and all seek to participate therein”.
“Neighborliness begins the journey for lasting peace, joy and Justice. It dispels darkness around all as it reminds us that “when there is a fire in your neighbour’s house, your house might not be spared”. It resonates with our sense of community and by extension nationhood. In this context, we can truly be the smiling coast of Africa as we seek to depict to the outside world” enthused Bishop Manga.
Reflecting on 2 Timothy 2 verses 14 to 16, Bishop Manga said “Saint Paul doesn’t mince his words” as he keeps reminding God’s people and warning them “against quarrelling about words; it is of no value and only ruins those who listen”. He added that the words of Saint Paul encouraged believers to do their best in presenting themselves to God and “avoid godless chatter because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly”.
Concluding his Christmas and New Year message, the presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church re-echoed the scriptures of Colossians chapter 3 verses 23 to 25, which encourages believers to remain steadfast in the mission of working for God and not worldly interest.