Saint Mary/Sang Marie-Tamharit 2020 (15th August 2020- Ashura 2020)
An Open Letter to Mr. President, ADAMA BARROW
By: Philip Saine
Muharram is an important and blessed month in the Hijira calendar; it marks ‘Ashura’, ‘Karbala’ and Jonah ejection from the belly of the fish. The tribe of Quraish, and the Jews fast and honour the day of Ashura as an ‘Id’ in commemoration of God saving Moses and the Israelites from their enemies
The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary August 15th (Saint Mary or Sang Marie) the Mother of Jesus is considered one of the most significant Gambian Catholic feast days. The feast commemorates the assumption of Mary body and soul into heaven. The Island of St. Mary, the Catholic Cathedral, the Anglican Cathedral and the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace at Kunkujang are all named after Mary the mother of Jesus. Indeed this date has been a public holiday in the Gambia since 1954.
On Saturday 15th August 2020 President Adama Barrow did not declare the day a public holiday in observance of the Catholic feast of Saint Mary (Sang Marie). Reactions of Christians and several Muslims to you not declaring the day a public holiday as tradition has it were mixed. Some came to your defence on Facebook saying that it was unnecessary as Saturday was not a statutory workday. Some were of the view that it was inadvertent, while others did not buy it. The latter felt strongly and unconvincingly that it was deliberate and asked for an apology for, or explanation of, why this was the case. Neither of these demands has been forthcoming, which shows your total indifference to the Christians’ concerns. We are still waiting for answers.
Tamhrit 2020 fell on Saturday 29th August and you declared it a public holiday, three days prior, in observance of the Muslim New Year. Christians were flabbergasted to hear this, especially those who came to your defence when you failed to declare August 15; the traditional feast of Sang Marie, a public holiday though it fell on a Saturday too. Immediately after this declaration was made on Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS), Facebook was flooded with posts from Gambians, Christians and Muslims alike, pointing to the double standards you demonstrated. ‘What is good for the goose, is good for the gander’, as the saying goes
How come the President of the Republic of the Gambia and his Religious Affairs Adviser were fully awake for the celebration of Muharram and Ashurah/Tamharit and not 15th August? Do we have a Religious Adviser advising on religion (both Islam and Christianity) or Islamic Adviser advising on Islam only? Mr. President it is justifiable to replace or dismiss your Minister responsible for Religious Affairs immediately. He is untrustworthy, incompetent and lacks understanding of the Christian faith. He is causing more harm than good in our beloved Gambia. The bond among the Gambian people is well beyond ethnicity, linguistics, regions and religious divides. We the Gambians grew up in an interfaith society; we have always lived in peace and harmony and should not tolerate any kind of abuse and injustice against our minority populations.
Not preempting answers however, it is reverently hoped that this has nothing to do with being in a Minority Group. The Gambia took Auung San Suu Kyi to the World Court as regards the Myanmar Case to the International Court of Justice. Gambia government perceived that Myanmar Government’s treatment of the Rohingya ethnic group was unjust. We are all equal in the eyes of God and should be so in the eyes of the State. Is that too much to ask for; equal justice and treatment? The Christian community is not demanding for special favours or privileges.
Mr. President, be careful about your relationship with the minority and other religions because it is how you treat them that will determine your success and your legacy. It is illegal for the government to spend state resources in advancing any particular religious agenda, whether it is Christian, Baha’i, Ahmadi’s, or Islam. Avoid any hypocritical attitude, double standard or unequal treatment of citizens. Get your religious advises directly from the Gambia Christian Council. You may do the same with Islamic advises and do without the position of a Religious Adviser. Please make all Gambians to be significant and proud of their nationality
Mr. President, remember you told Gambians you killed the lion? It was not a lion that you killed. It is appropriate to say that you killed trust, you killed hope, you killed respect, and you killed dignity and everything we (particularly the marginalized and victimized population) yearned for in your administration. Remember that ‘We’ raised the lion, fed it and nurtured it. Therefore, Gambian Christians cannot be second class citizens in their own backyard. Do not allow History to repeat itself.
Mr. President, your predecessor Ex-President Yahya Jammeh tried to drive a wedge between Christians and Muslims, and between ethnic groups, and he paid dearly for it. This is not the time to be indifferent or oblivious to religious sensitivities. Strengthening your relationship with the Christian minority is what you should be pursuing vigorously at this time in our political transformation, so as to secure its support for you in the future.
Mr. President, the Christian community eagerly waits to hear from you on the matter.
Note: The story here does not reflect the opinion of the Trumpet, but that of the author.