By: Pa Nderry M’Bai
Pastor Francis Forbes of the Gateway Abiding Word Ministries Church has implored the Barrow government to stay away from matters of religion and faith and focus on governance and create the enabling environment that would foster peace and economic prosperity in the country. The respected Gambian Pastor was reacting to President Adama Barrow’s announcement of constructing 60 mosques across the country on an annual basis. “I am bewildered of that statement. I am not too sure whether it is a political promise, but my first thought should be why, because the pressing needs of the country after what we came out of are more urgent beyond what I heard. And I wonder why,” said Pastor Forbes.
“And my position really is that, whether is 60 mosques or 60 churches, I think government should really keep away from matters of religion and faith and focus on governance and creating an enabling environment for us all to be good citizens and bring the train that we all expect in the national development plan into fruition; that is what I think is important now,” he added.
Mr. Forbes said some section of the Gambian Christian population felt being marginalized and alienated by the President’s announcement. He cautioned that the Gambia is a secular state, and therefore, such statement coming from the President, has place in our new-found democracy.
“Well from what I have seen on social media and hearing from conversations, it is bit disheartening because it almost gives the Christians here, the impression that the government or through its surrogates is aligning in a religious way; and I think they ought to be reminded when we were going through what we went through in 2016 into 2017, the Christian Church, the Christian body of body Christ in The Gambia, was very actively involved as Gambians and as bonafied stakeholders of this country to ensure that things went out well, and things turns out well for the country; that is why the Church prayed in public; prayed in private; different groups fasted,” he remarked.
“I remember a particular Christian man, who cried openly in a meeting; I was asking what would become the future of his family in this country. He left his country, where there was war and came to this country because it was peaceful, and he was able to practice his faith; he married a Gambian woman; they have children and suddenly Ex-President Jammeh was making the decision he made in declaring the Gambia an Islamic State,” he told Freedom Radio Gambia.
Forbes said President Barrow’s statement reminded them about dictator Jammeh’s persecution of the country’s minority Christian population in the name of an Islamic State. He said Barrow should endeavor to treat all faiths equally and not to make them feel alienated.
“Now when we feel we have moved away from that; this statement in a rally have leave a bitter taste in the mouth of a Gambian Christian and we don’t want to have to go back to pray back to God to change it, but if we have to; we will,” he said.
Pastor Forbes maintained that the construction of sixty mosques in the country is a misplaced priority. He said the government should be concerned about improving the living conditions of Gambian youths than using them for political adventurism.
“Pa, as I said, even if he was going to construct 60 Churches, for us, in the Gambia, right now; there are pressing priorities; the rains are on; as a matter of fact, you just called me, about ten minutes after my electricity came on after about 16 hours off. I was told that there was a problem in one of the lines, but the rains have not even really poured down the way they would pour down; and you know here every time its rains lights would go off; homes flooded; gutters; so, there are more pressing priorities for this government as a transitional government to handle; to fix the nation properly. And I overheard yesterday on Focus on Africa, BBC, that it appears to be that it is the desire of the Barrow Youth Movement to do this and actually not the government. And I am wondering if that is so,” he lamented.
“I am bewildered Pa, because the Youths of Gambia, in this Gambia that I live in; I am not understood the Youth to find building mosques as their priority. What we see in the backway syndrome and mass unemployment of this country that has about 60 percent of its population; 16 years and below; I really would doubt whether their priority is to build 60 mosques across the country. And I emphasize, even if it were 60 Churches, it is not our priority now. It is totally misplaced; it is mis-advised; and I think it should die as it was said; it should end and let us continue our building this country properly,” he added.
Forbes referenced an interview Amie Bojang Sissoho, the President’s Press Director granted to the BBC. He was not the least pleased with the content of that interview.
“I listened to the president’s Spokesperson and she said that it was the Barrow Youth Movement that was aligning itself, and I really find that language very funny; aligning itself with what? Does that mean that the presidency or the president, has such a desire? And that begins to bring to question your thought about a smokescreen; is this a subterfuge for something else; is a script that has been written; that is been played out or is somebody testing the waters to see the reaction? And if that is so, Pa, we were here in November, December, to January 2017, and only God, almighty saved this country from going through war; so, the matters of faith and religion, we should leave them and just be focused; it has never been a problem here; it should not be a problem,” he remarked.