By Saikou Suwareh Jabai 

Catholic Priest, Father David Jimoh Jarju, has said that the presidential declaration of The Gambia as an ‘Islamic State’ on the 10th of Father David Jimoh JarjuDecember 2015 is confusing to them as Christians. “We sought clarification, I was part of the delegation that went to state house for us to discuss this matter but unfortunately, GRTS said very little about it. It was based on frank discussions and we expressed our views,” he revealed.

Father Jarju added that during the meeting, the Justice Minister reacted to their concerns and said President Jammeh declared the country as an Islamic state in order to promote Islam. He said the Methodist Bishop Anna Faal Hein responded by asking them “How can you have two children and support one and leave the other? We are all children of the state!”

Father Jarju said GRTS should be fair enough to air that information so that people will know the truth. He expressed his sincere disappointment with the state television, adding that if it can give 30 minutes of air times or more on other programmes, then what about this important occasion.

The Roman Catholic priest made these remarks during the fourth edition of Side By Side Organisation’s annual inter-faith dialogue which was held at TANGO on Saturday 2nd July 2016.

He also lamented the directive that bans drumming and using loud speakers for dances during Ramadan. He noted that this resulted to the harassment of Christians while they celebrated first communions and confirmations in their homes. He cited five examples from Brikama, one from Kartong and another from Fajukunda. He showed this reporter a letter from the Office of the President, dated 27th June, 2016, which was sent to Bishop Ellison of the Catholic Church (representing the Gambia Christian Council) indicating that drumming and dancing are allowed in Churches and Christian homes. He added: “I hope the Police, the Alkalos and chiefs get this information soonest in order to avert future unfortunate situations.”

The said clarification letter from the Office of the President was made available to this reporter and it reads, “RE- PROHIBITION OF DRUMMING AND DANCING FESTIVITIES DURING RAMADAN. I write to kindly acknowledge the receipt of your letter dated 8th June, 2016 relative to the above cited subject, and to consequently inform you that in accordance with the relevant Executive Directive, the ban applies to public places and markets, but not Churches and Christian homes.”

Father Jarju spoke at length on other issues affecting the members of their faith, including the monthly ‘set-setal’ affecting their religious services, not being given one by six government loan during their feasts, among others.

Concluding, Father Jarju, who doubles as the Principal of St. Peters Senior Secondary School and the Head of Catholic Education Secretariat in the country, said if interfaith dialogue is to succeed in The Gambia, then there must be a ‘divorce’ between state and religion.