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Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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CHRISTIAN COUNCIL ASKS UDP TO DISASSOCIATE ITSELF FROM SABALLY’S ‘DEROGATORY’ REMARKS

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By Alagie Manneh

The Gambia Christian Council has released a statement yesterday addressing the seeming rising religious tensions triggered by the student veil issue in the country, and accused Momodou Sabally, the campaign manager of UDP, of disparaging the Christian faith.

In the letter, the council stated: “The bishops and other members of The Gambia Christian Council (GCC) are aware of recent religious tensions trigged by the veil issue in our faith-based schools and other educational institutions and the varied and divisive rhetoric expressed about the Christian faith…

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“The Gambia Christian Council commends the leadership demonstrated by the Minister of Religious Affairs and the members of the National Security Council in initiating an inter-religious dialogue and advocating for a toning down of the rhetoric of certain actors who are commenting on behalf of their communities of faith.

“The Christian Council is also aware of derogatory, unhealthy, and ill informed-pronouncements made by Mr Momodou Sabally, the campaign manager of one of the leading political parties in our nation. These may be his personal views or those of his party. We expect the national executive of his party to dissociate the party from such unacceptable views. Consequently, we condemn in no uncertain terms those unscrupulous individuals’ derogatory comments, made in order to capitalise on this issue to score points they feel would favour their affiliations, political or religious and in the process drive a wedge between our communities who have lived in peace and harmony for centuries.

“We are of the conviction that all good and responsible people living in The Gambia embrace peace, mutual tolerance and unity rather than the contrary.  We stand consistent with our heritage and Jesus’ message of justice, peace and truth.

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“Our faith-based schools owned by the churches, as well as other educational institutions, have been taken to court. We have responded to the summons and are determined to defend the claim robustly and effectively to a logical and legal conclusion based on the law and our Christian values, rooted in our Lord Jesus Christ.

“We cannot continue to push this and other matters under the carpet.  We do not want a resurgence of such issues jeopardising our quest for national development and brighter future for The Gambia. Finally, we encourage everyone in The Gambia to continue nurturing the peace and cohesiveness we are known for in our beloved country.”

Reaction

Contacted for his response, Mr Sabally rejected the accusations levelled against him by the council, and added that his statements on the matter were his personal opinion, and not those of his party.

“What I mentioned is my opinion that the girls using veils should be allowed to use their veils in the schools, and my argument is from the democratic constitutional rights perspective that every Gambian should be free to exercise his or her religion and to manifest their religion as they see fit without mistreating the laws of the land,” he asserted.

Sabally said his comments were borne out of the need to defend the constitutional right of every Gambian, irrespective of religious belief.

Sabally, who said he considered himself “a friend” of the Christian faith, added that the accusations “caught him off-guard”.

“I actually studied the bible, and the current Catholic bishop is like a brother. So, this is a community that I don’t even otherise because I feel that I am a part and parcel of them. I have family members who are Christians. And I personally believe that the Christian faith and the Christians have a right to exercise their religious beliefs freely. I believe in that.”

The CCG statement came in the wake of a religious meeting held with members of the Supreme Islamic Council, including the religious affairs minister Abba Sanyang, who Mr Sabally views as “an unapologetic politician”.

“I would not be surprised if perhaps the religious affairs minister, who is an active political player, may have maligned me or mischaracterised me to score political points. But I have nothing but respect for Christians and Christianity. And I will be the first to defend the rights of Christians in this country.”

The spokesperson of the UDP, Almami Taal, did not respond to The Standard’s request for a comment on the issue. He said the party intends to meet its media team before making any statement on the issue.    

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