By Aisha Tamba
Bishop Gabriel Mendy, the Bishop of Banjul, has said the Christian Council clearly advocated for the inclusion of ‘secular’ in the constitution.
Bishop Mendy said it is their firm belief that the state should be neutral in matters of religion without giving any preferential treatment to any religion or religious group.
Speaking on behalf of the Council at a press briefing yesterday, the Bishop said last seven years have been a testing period for Gambia because of series of threats against the Christian religion.
He said these threats ranged from encroachment on Christian cemeteries, wearing of veils in Christian-run schools, declaring the Gambia an Islamic state, disparaging remarks about Christianity from the former head of state, threats to close down Christian cemeteries in Banjul, to invitation of the Islamic scholar Dr Zakir Naik, who publicly made critical remarks about Christianity.
“The Council is concerned that the CRC may have been unduly influenced into omitting ‘secular’ in the proposed draft following the many audio clips that were circulated and purporting to come from an Islamic scholar who put up a forceful agreement against including the word ‘secular’ in the new constitution which he argued was un-Islamic with insinuations that there were sinister groups with anti-religious agendas trying to influence members of the Constitutional Review Commission to include the word ‘secular’ to undermine Muslims,” Bishop Mendy said.
He said the GCC is aware of those attributing “secular” to mean irreligiousness, rejection and exclusion of religious considerations in everything pertaining to the state including not even having public religious prayers and or religious symbols are wrong.
“This is certainly not what the GCC is advocating for. The GCC therefore proposes that the word ‘secular’ be added to the preamble of the constitution and that section (1) should also read that “The Gambia is a sovereign secular state”.
The Chairman of the Gambia Christian Council, Most Rev. James Allen Yam Odico, stressed that the government must be neutral and the constitution should be for everybody in the country.
“We the Christians are not second class citizens; we are all equally first class citizens in this country. So why should the Sharia law be in the constitution? Let Sharia law be for Muslims to govern them and to regulate their affairs. We must be honest and truthful because religion is what brings about chaos in the world. Being the majority does not mean that you should molest the minority. We are all part and parcel of the land and have contributed to the development of the country, in education, health, agriculture you name it. We have never treated people in a different manner and we deserve to be treated the same treatment from everybody,” he demanded.