Gambia: 'Gov't Will Continue to Maintain Zero Tolerance for Religious Intolerance'

Photo: IRIN
Gays face charges and discrimination.

The president of the Republic has once again reaffirmed that his government will continue to maintain zero tolerance for racism, corruption, violence, homosexuality, drugs, rape and religious intolerance of whatever form.

His Excellency, Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh made this revelation in his annual Christmas message to the nation on the eve of Christmas.

According to him, history continues to show the horrendous consequences of religious intolerance in other parts of the world - examples include some countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.He said in consequence, we in The Gambia should not take the peace and tranquility we enjoy for granted, but undertake to jealously and zealously nurture and safeguard the peaceful coexistence that characterizes life in our dear motherland.

Below is the full text of the president's message;

Fellow Gambians

Friends of The Gambia

Our Christian Brothers and Sisters

Other Nationals resident in The Gambia

The wheel of time has revolved once again to herald the blessed feast of Christmas. Therefore, we proclaim our gratitude to the Almighty God for granting us the mercy of living to witness this Day and for the blessing of sending Jesus Christ as a Messenger and Saviour. Indeed, Jesus is revered by the two great religions, Christianity and Islam, as God's true and indisputable Prophets. Thus, we join our Christian brethren to give praise and thanks t o the Omnipotent God for the gift of Christmas. We are fortunate that, in The Gambia, Christians and Muslims alike observe this feast annually in peace and harmony.

In a spectacular fashion, Christmas remains a special occasion globally devoted to the celebration of the birth and life of Jesus Christ. In recollection, Christmas needs to be linked to the mission of this distinguished Prophet, as well as to his principles and teachings. As servants of God, it should remind us of how, expectantly, we ought to respond to his teachings, and how his mission should shape our daily lives and interpersonal relations. If all these underline the prayers and activities that go with Christmas, we will be compelled to ponder over our deeds as individuals and as a nation during the year with a view to improving on our relationship with God and our fellow human beings. In this way, the celebration of Christmas will bring rich blessings and good fortune to our families and the nation at large. It is also a period of deep reflections and retrospective self assessment both individually, collectively, and as a nation on the essence of our existence in relation to our duty to the Almighty Allah first; and to our fellow human beings based on the teachings of Prophet Jesus Christ PBUH.

Fellow Gambians

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

As Jesus strove to unite all people and nations as the creation servants of one God, so must we strive to care for and share with each other, heal broken families, restore friendships, reconcile divided communities, and reinforce our sense of belonging and respect for one another.

For those endowed with religious faith, Jesus Christ epitomizes peace and salvation, and so must this be reflected in the celebration of his birth. However, for there to be lasting peace, it must be anchored on a solid foundation; or else, it will remain elusive or illusionary. Furthermore, it will be enjoyed only momentarily, unless we value and nourish in our hearts the humane sentiments of brotherhood and sisterhood occasioned by the common origin and the ultimate destiny we share; The One and Only God.

The knowledge that, as the progeny of Adam and Eve, humankind is one family created by God dispels the justification for any inclination towards such negative tendencies as racism, greed, pride and the instinct to subjugate others. Together with similar predispositions, these elements trigger hate, dissension, violent wars and other acts of atrocities.

Contingent on this, it is necessary to overcome and dismiss evil ideas and beliefs that spur humanity to injustice, rebellion, destruction or unwarranted use of force. The myth or misnomer of the supremacy of any race, ethnic grouping, nation or other categorisations are serious obstacles to the much needed integrated life of humans and nations for peaceful cohabitation. It is necessary, therefore, to impose on ourselves the moral principles and discipline grounded in the divine teachings of right reason and of the true Christian doctrine of good neighbourliness, righteousness and worship of the One and Only True God Almighty.

Further to this, enlightened and armed with the word of God, we must allow justice to prevail for all human beings, regardless of colour, creed, religion or any other type of perceived distinction. This will eventually defuse tension and conflict, settle disputes peacefully, make tasks easier, define our duties and provide just answers to claims and counterclaims that may be made by disputing parties.

At this point, we must call to mind the suffering of innocent and vulnerable men, women, children and the elderly in such conflict areas of the world as Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Mali and DR Congo. These are people who suffer from the anxieties and miseries of life, and to whom Christmas should bring a sweet ray of comfort and hope. These victimized people do not preclude the sick and the infirm, who need to be recipients of devoted attention and very special affection.

There are also those that are suffering in spirit or in their hearts due to the uncertainties of the future or0 economic hardships or of unjustifiable humiliation imposed upon them. Those to whom this Christmas should also bring some hope and joy include little children, known to be dear to Prophet Jesus Christ who their vulnerability and fragility deserve inviolable respect and special attention. Another category of people that merit our remembrance on this day constitute the elderly, many of whom are often gripped by moments of depression and desperation, to the extent of feeling abandoned in some instances.

Fellow Gambians

Friends of The Gambia

Ladies and Gentlemen

We are thankful to the Almighty God that in The Gambia, Muslims and Christians have ever lived together as one family based on mutual tolerance, love and respect.In contrast, history continues to show us the horrendous consequences of religious intolerance in other parts of the world - examples include some countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

In consequence, we in The Gambia should not take the peace and tranquility we enjoy for granted, but undertake to jealously and zealously nurture and safeguard the peaceful coexistence that characterizes life in our dear motherland.In this regard, my Government will continue to maintain zero tolerance for racism, corruption, violence, homosexuality, drugs, rape and religious intolerance of whatever form.

As true believers in God, let us not forget while celebrating Christmas that the life of Jesus Christ provides a perfect example of pure worship, hard work, humility and devotion to the service of humanity, especially service to the poor and needy. These examples should motivate us to emulate him, repent our sins and amend if we want to have more fulfilling lives. It will serve us better to strive to lead humble lives like the chosen few by standing for what is right; sharing with each other and together fighting against evil; and advocating justice for a better nation and a better world for humanity.

I urge all of us to use this occasion to rededicate ourselves and our families to the values of total devotion and obedience to the One and Only God, and drawing strength and inspiration in prayer and in caring and sharing with one another, particularly with less fortunate individuals and groups in our society. Celebrations such as Christmas should induce sincere supplications for peace and for the restoration of morality in our societies. Also, we should supplicate for a society free of evil and a peaceful world for the entire human race. Likewise, we ought to strive to live productively and within lawful means.

Of all the joys of the season, perhaps none is more satisfying than the joy of giving; not just giving our gifts that are exchanged between family and friends, but the gifts of time, love, caring and providing to the people less fortunate than us. In principles, however, peace and happiness are better Christmas gifts than expensive presents devoid of love and affection. Those imbued with wisdom know, for example, that joy is easily transmissible through kind gestures, acts of hospitality, reconciliation and forgiving those that trespass against us.

The Scriptures indicate further that forgiveness lies at the heart of the two main religions - Islam and the Christian faith, and it is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God's love. Just as we are recompensed for the good we do, so does the joy we put in a person's heart rebound to us. Therefore, we pray that the joy and peace of God expressed in the birth of Jesus Christ shine forth in our lives and in all the communities in The Gambia and beyond.

I implore you to celebrate the festive season responsibly, in order that it continues to be a blessed, joyful, peaceful feast for all. May the Almighty God shower his eternal blessings and mercies on our families and the nation and deliver us from the calamities that plague the beautiful earth He has created for us to inhabit in peace and happiness. I pray also that we live to celebrate many happy returns of the season.

In conclusion, I wish all Gambians and residents of The Gambia, as well as the friends of The Gambia, the global Christian community, a very blessed and happy Christmas.

I thank you for your kind attention.

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