By: Philip Saine
Christmas is the fulfillment of the Scripture. In Isaiah 9: 5 God promises that a child, The Saviour, would be born through a Virgin. ‘For a Son has been born for us, a son has been given to us, and dominion has been laid on his shoulders, and this is the name he has been given, Wonder-Counsellor Mighty-God, Eternal-Father, Prince-of-Peace’,
Christmas is celebrated the world over to mark the incarnation of the Word of God, Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, who took on human flesh to live amongst men. He, the Lord, is also called Emmanuel –‘God with us’. Christmas is a celebration of the fulfillment and manifestation of this prophecy and does not only belong to Christians but to all who uphold the life and witness of Jesus Christ. Traditions in The Gambia have always recognized this.
The Gambian President delivered a positive and powerful 2020 Christmas Message. It was welcomed by most Gambian Christians as for most part of his presidency President Barrow has often forgotten, ignored or excluded Christians from his agenda on faith or faith promotion. This time around, the President reverted to upholding the status quo associated with Gambians. He emphasized that ‘he is alive to the principle that everyone has right(s) to be protected, no matter the religious beliefs one is associated with’. He further strengthened this position by adding ‘for sustained peaceful coexistence and progress, regardless of who or what we are, we have to adhere to the basic principles of living together, accommodating one another and acting as law abiding Citizens’.
In his message, the President congratulated all Christians for being law abiding and positive contributors to the sustained progress of the nation in all the prayers and activities that Christians are engaged in. He further paid tribute to all families who lost a loved one during the COVID-19 pandemic. In praying for the repose of the souls of all who have died, President Barrow celebrated the life and ministry of Bishop Emeritus Michael Joseph Cleary, whose life and ministry in The Gambia touched many lives and had positively contributed to the development of The Gambia.
President Barrow continued his message by highlighting some of the significant contributions carried out by the Christian community in their quest to positively contribute to national development. He singled out the Christian contributions to Education – where many prominent Gambians got their formations. He also highlighted the many charities associated with the Christian communities. He echoed that most of the benefactors are non-Christians thereby emphasizing the non-discriminatory nature of the Christian communities.
As all are citizens, equal before the law, and have equal rights President Barrow said: “We are Gambians without distinction, and should strive together for the progress and development of our dear country. The President highlighted the collective voice of Christians to ensure that their concerns were addressed during the process of drafting the 2020 constitution. Barrow stated “In this respect, the Christians have been playing an active role in making their collective voice heard to make sure that their rights are protected, especially as Constitutional matters continue to feature on our national agenda”. The community, he said, showed that it is law-abiding, patient and respectful. The community cooperated with government in implementing the health guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic and could not even attend to their major religious functions and feasts, such as Easter. President Barrow continued to remark that “Christians in the country have been patient and cooperative. The Christian Council, for example, has been engaging my government, and has remained law-abiding, while supporting our development efforts. I commend The Gambia Christian Council, therefore, and the entire Christian Community in the country for their support, patience, discipline and cooperation”
President Barrow stated that government remains committed to safeguarding the rights of all minority groups, and we will continue to accommodate them in the governance structures of the country. This has been reflected in my Cabinet he said. The President however missed an opportunity to include a Christian in the National Assembly when amongst the five nominated members he wouldn’t consider even one Christian. Equally in July 2018 in the North Bank Region he wouldn’t promise to construct even one church and in November 2020 he wouldn’t allocate one electricity meter to the Christian community when he made his ‘Meet the People’s Tour’. Perhaps we are now witnessing an honest change of heart and fairer distribution of the nation’s resources. The main concerns of Gambian Christians in the Draft 2020 Constitution awaiting due and proper consideration are: Section 10 see section 303(1) is not an entrenched clause, Section 188 of the draft Constitution unlike the 1997 Constitution does not clearly specify who Shari’ah Law applies to, The Draft provision removes the requirement for one to be qualified and competent in the Common law before being appointed as a judge.
Gambian Christians, through the guidance of their leadership, have been and will continue to pray for the continual wellbeing of all Gambians and peoples of the world. Christians are bound by divine command to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, heal the sick, help those in prison, comfort the broken-hearted and the dying and those who have suffered losses or lost loved ones.
In keeping with the tradition of Christmas, the Christian community welcomes the speech by the President. It is hoped that this tradition will be continued and that the love and peace associated with Christmas will continue to be pivoted within the Gambian Jurisdiction and beyond. It is hoped that the peaceful coexistence associated with the Gambian nation will be safeguarded and nurtured for future generations. The Christian Community continues praying for the wellbeing of the President, for Peace, Progress and Prosperity. Christians of The Gambia celebrate the goodwill and wishes of all and will continue participating more meaningfully with the Government and Peoples of The Gambia.