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Barrow condemns church attack, police give updates on investigations

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By Tabora Bojang     

President Adama Barrow yesterday condemned religious violence following attacks on two churches in Bakau and Tallinding.

The Standard reported on Tuesday quoting that the Star of the Sea Parish in Bakau came under an attack by a mob who allegedly pepper sprayed a father and vandalised the statue of the blessed Mary while mass was on. The paper quoted Father Peter Jammeh who said the incident seemed to have been an organised crime.

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What’s On Gambia also reported a separate case on Sunday that two people sustained injuries Saturday night during clashes between Muslims and Christians in Tallinding after a group of young Muslims allegedly attacked worshippers at a nearby church for making loud noise while Ramadan prayers were ongoing.

Addressing these matter President Barrow’s statement said: “My government will not allow the destruction of our unique culture of religious tolerance and cohesiveness bequeathed to us by our forefathers. Zealots, fanatics or bandits masquerading as purists have no place in Gambian society”.

President Barrow further condemned in the strongest terms, ‘such cowardly attacks on Christians and added that the government is thoroughly investigating the matter and those found wanting will be dealt with accordingly’.

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“President Barrow admonishes all Gambians and residents to continue nurturing the values, norms and culture of tolerance, peaceful co-existence our nation is known for globally. Mr Barrow reminds citizens that the Gambia remains a secular democracy with laws guaranteeing the fundamental human rights of all citizens among them pluralistic freedoms of worship regardless of one’s orientation. It is therefore utterly criminal for any person or persons to attack innocent worshippers or their places of worship regardless of their faith,” the statement issued by the Government Spokesman said.

Meanwhile the Police also issued a preliminary report of their investigations into the matter. It reads:“The Gambia Police Force high command clarifies based on investigative findings on recent incidents of alleged church attacks in the communities of Bakau and Tallinding, contrary to what has been reported to the press.

In Bakau, a police probe has uncovered that a case of vandalism of the statue of Mary at the entrance of the church was reported at Bakau Newtown Police Post by a member of the Church, on April 9, 2023. The case was reported without any identified suspect at the first instance.  That same day, precisely on Sunday evening, three young boys (names withheld) were allegedly found on the rooftop of the church, claiming to be searching for their stray doves. The suspects are being arrested and currently helping the police in their investigations.

 In a separate incident, Father Peter Jammeh, one of the church leaders at the said church, claimed being physically assaulted by an “unknown drunken mob”, while attempting to assist a frail-looking old woman right opposite the church across the main road in Bakau on a Saturday morning around 10:00 am. 

According to Father Jammeh’s narrative, in an altercation with the alleged “drunken boys”, he claimed that he was sprayed in the eyes with pepper spray. Police investigators have visited the scene of the incident in Bakau and have also spoken with the priest himself, Peter Jammeh. It is confirmed that Father Peter Jammeh has neither reported the allegation of being assaulted to any police station nor was he able to identify any of the suspects for further police probe.

Meanwhile, in all these our investigators established that Father Peter Jammeh was not at the services of the church nor was he dressed in any church apparel during his alleged confrontation with the alleged “three drunken boys. 

A similar but different incident was reported in Tallinding between some members of the Muslim community and a church. In the wake of news media reportage on the matter, citing loud music of church mass disrupting Muslims’ Tarawih (night) prayer as the cause of the clash, both parties were invited to Tallinding Police Station, and the matter is being transferred to the relevant authorities for a resolution. 

Our preliminary investigations reveal that the Bakau and the Tallinding incidents occurred in different locations, dates, and times and are of isolated nature. Therefore, it is vital to note that these incidents are neither corresponding nor correlated.

The Gambia Police Force remains committed to protecting the rights of all citizens, irrespective of their religious affiliations. To this end, the public is urged to desist from spreading false information capable of compromising the peace and security of the country while firmly upholding the principles of justice and accountability at all times.

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