Gambia: Achieving Peace, Stability Through Social Cohesion

analysis

In a bid to contribute to social cohesion and peace building in the country, Caritas and the Catholic Development Office (CADO), has launched a six-day training program on social cohesion, at the Gambia Pastoral Institute.

The training aims to contribute to repairing broken social ties and restore trust between communities, groups, the state and her citizens, and to further strengthen the skills of participants in building the capacity of partners/beneficiaries on peace building and social cohesion; to identify potential causes of violence/conflicts; understand the 3Bs (binding, bonding and bridging) and 4Ds (discovery, dream, design and deliver) in strengthening and applying skills to support communities in social cohesion.

Becky Adda-Dontoh, peace and development adviser at the UN's Gambia office, said it is refreshing for them at the UNDP and the World body in general, to observe that Civil Society has taken peace building and social cohesion seriously, and is investing in strengthening capacities for Peace.

She pointed out that the findings of Conflict and Development Analysis of the country, jointly conducted by Government and Civil Society in 2018, and updated this year, points to conflict drives that holds the existing potential if unaddressed, to push the country towards conflict, instability and development.

On political tensions, she said conflicts over land and natural resources, identity citizenship concerns, tensions around returning migrants and deportations, and religious-related tensions, are some of the conflict drivers identified in the report; that this needs all hands on deck.

Becky Adda-Dontoh. The Challenges

While competition and divergent views are healthy in a democracy, competition and criticism that are driven by other motives rather than a desire to contribute towards the national good, can be very destructive and inimical to the development of a nation.

What is urgently required to help address these and other conflict drivers, is a new paradigm of collaboration; a new culture of collaborative problem solving in which Government, opposition, civil society particularly young people and women, private sector and all other sectors to perceive one another as partners rather than as rivals; a culture in which expression of options is constructive and in the interest of the national good; and a culture in which Government encourages and creates spaces for dialogue and constructive feedback.

She opined that civil society especially faith-based organistions, hold key spaces for the promotion of peace and development, with the proximity to communities, Churches and mosques, CSOs have immeasurable capacities for leading positive change in this country.

"The Gambia needs the collective efforts of all her citizens for sustainable peace and development," she said; that it is imperative that all efforts to strengthen capacities for peace include and involve women and young and disabled ones, if sustainable peace and development is to be achieved.

Francis Dominic Mendy, director, Caritas The Gambia

At the heart of their social mission, the Catholic Church is a call to work for justice and peace. Cultivating just and peaceful societies is part of the mission of the Catholic Relief Service and Caritas International and is essential to our vision for all people with weighted concern for the poorest, most vulnerable and marginalized among us, to have opportunities to fulfil their God-given human potentials. "Peace building is essential to applying Catholic Social Teaching in practice".

At a time when our belief in human dignity and respect for life has been shaken in The Gambia, the 3Bs offer a means to bring single and mixed-identity groups together for introspection, dialogue and joint action.

He said societies that emerged from traumatic experiences, need leadership that is more caring with greater self-awareness and is less inclined to seek refuge in victimhood.

RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE

Religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence being promoted by the (Gambia Christian Council/ Supreme Islamic Council) interfaith committees designed to promote better understanding among religions and between sects is crucial for stability of the country. Mindful of the multiple diversities within a relatively small population, The Gambia has been able to maintain peaceful coexistence among its people largely due to a number of cultural and social ties between its ethnic and faith groups. This has been our strength and that must be guarded to continue to make our society unique, peaceful and prosperous, where citizens will live in dignity and human security.

Political, religious and tribal intolerance could therefore be mitigated among other things such as religious leaders preaching peace and tolerance; people being sincere and honest for the sake of the national interest; merit-based appointments and equal access to resources

"When peace builders embrace their collective journey, they will be more willing to realize this vision with their community, region and country, and heal the world," he said; that bearing in mind that the country has been polarized along ethnic, religious and regional lines, it is important that the country is brought together as one.

Amir Baba Trawally said the event is geared to promote peace in the country.

CRS/CaDO efforts/contribution to peace and stability:

Catholic Relief Services and the Catholic Development Office initiated a peacebuilding project in Fiscal Year 2017 to build the capacity of Christian and Islamic religious leaders, the laity, security (police and soldiers), and the National Assembly Members (NAMs) to support the TRRC's agenda.

CRS focused on promoting peace through the roll out of the Agency's 3Bs/4Ds social cohesion (SC) methodology. Revelations from the TRRC testimonies about mistrust, disharmony and lack of communications between and among groups have made it more critical for the country to scale up this concept.

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