By Omar Bah
Activista, a youth-led civil society organisation championing peace in The Gambia through funding from ActionAid International, has started the process of promoting religious tolerance in the country.
Yesterday, the organisation started the process with a roundtable discussion with representatives from the Gambia Supreme Islamic Council (GSIC), the Christian Council, and The Gambia Press Union (GPU).
The dialogue is meant to strengthen relations among people of different faiths and enhance peaceful coexistence by all sectors of society.
Recent tensions between Muslims and Christians in Bakau and Tallinding were flagged as potential threats to the peaceful coexistence of the two faiths.
In his opening remarks, the National Human Rights Commission executive secretary Dr Saikou Kawsu Gassama, who is also the chairman of Activista, said engagement with the religious councils and youth groups is a means of preventive action.
“It is a discussion around issues relating to interfaith and how we can promote peace and coexistence,” he said.
The GPU president, Muhamed Bah, said that in a democracy where diverse voices coexist, religious tolerance stands as a cornerstone for a harmonious society.
“It is crucial to recognise that our differences, beliefs, and faith enrich the fabric of our nation and should not serve as a means of dividing us. Embracing religious tolerance is key, and fostering this understanding will ensure that we have a democracy where everyone lives peacefully,” he said.
The executive director of ActionAid Ndella Fye Colley said: “In a country that is increasingly interconnected, diverse and interdependent, it is crucial that we embrace and hold each other with respect on matters of beliefs.”
She said religion throughout history has played a role in shaping societies, cultures, and individuals.
“It has provided solace, guardianship, and a sense of purpose to countless individuals across the globe.
However, it is also undeniable that religious differences have at times been a source of division, conflict, prejudice, and discrimination, which are a recipe for conflict,” she said.
She said Gambians should not allow their religious differences to come between them.
During a panel discussion, the representatives from the Supreme Islamic and Christian Councils reaffirmed their institutions commitment to ensuring a more peaceful relationship between the two faiths.
The two disclosed numerous measures taken up by their institutions to ensure their followers live peacefully despite belonging to different faith.