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City of Banjul
Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Big job, bigger questions

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The first is the globalisation of humankind; the second is the positive conspiracy of science and technology in the fortification of this new global materialism; the third is the intellectual coexistence and collaboration, on the one hand, and vituperation and vilification between religious and ethnic groups around the world, on the other. Through these problems and prospects made possible by the transportation and electronic communication in the world, leaders of the twenty first century must provide a new approach that elevates to higher levels the intelligence and wisdom of Westphalia as well as the intelligence and wisdom of the Founding Fathers in the Declaration and the Constitution.

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Being at the heart and central of all these revolutionary changes, how do you expect to negotiate conflict and change within the United States of America and in other parts of the world when religion and politics conspire to challenge US policy, on the one hand, and international peace and security on the other?

Related to this question is a question that builds on what Father John Courtney Murray, the Catholic theologian, wrote over fifty years ago before the election of President John F Kennedy. At that time he had to address a question sometimes raised by certain Americans about the relationship between Catholicism and American Democracy. In addressing that question he identified the Protestant, the Catholic, the Jew and the Secularist as the four “conspiracies” living under one political roof called the American Constitution. Although he used the term conspiracy in a positive sense a la Cicero from whom he appropriated this word, he recognized the tensions and fears between these constituting groups. Now that America has expanded into a really interfaith community of religions and faiths from different parts of the world, what can you add to the American Salad Bowl to whet the appetite of most if not all Americans struggling with the competing claims of the locally grounded and externally grounded believers? In other words, how are you going to support the legislatures in safeguarding the rights of all believers as well as non-believers within the American. What kind of judges would you like to serve in the Supreme Court without denying the rights of all people. Are you going to raise the bar higher than your predecessors. Remember, it was Eisenhower who gave us “In God we trust on our dollar bill as well as the widely celebrated phrase Judeo-Christian. It was Ronald Reagan who told former Soviet leader Gorbachev that he was coming from a land where there are churches, synagogues and mosques. How can you improve on these political formulations without excluding Americans of South Asian and Southeast Asian origins where Buddhism, Sikhism and Hinduism prevail. Being still the leader of the globalized world, who are you going to negotiate on this emerging mental highway of humankind. There will be tool booths and HOV lanes. Let me hear your perspectives on this new adventure.

The third question I would suggest to my colleague is the linkages between poverty, religion and international terrorism. How can the next U.S. President contribute to the emerging efforts of persons working in the field of interfaith dialogue to ameliorate the quality of life of the poor, the diseased and the politically and ideologically motivated to change their material conditions and their perspectives so that we can singly and collectively work for better communication and collaboration among human beings? 

I hope my colleague would have the opportunity to weave these sentences within his fabric for dialogue and debate between the two candidates. Both of them are privileged by history to come to this part of the American political mountain top. Whoever is elected president would be doing for all of us what Moses and Joshua on the one hand, and George Washington and Jefferson on the other have done to give meaning to our working proposition in the Declaration of Independence and in the lifetime of this Constitution. Most Americans believe that there is life beyond the grave and for this and other related reasons they also believe in physics and metaphysics simultaneously.

The twentieth century calls for the articulation of what the scriptures and science have come to affirm. Whether through Adam and Eve on the one hand or through Lucy on the other, we are all linked through DNA and by scriptural affirmations. Let us hear the intelligence and wisdom of our presidential candidates.


Gambian-born Dr Sulayman Nyang is professor and chairman of the African Studies Department at Howard University in Washington, DC, USA.


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