Panafrican News Agency

Gambian Christians frown on omission of ‘secular’ in draft constitution

Banjul, Gambia (PANA)   -  The Christian community in The Gambia Wednesday expressed concern over the omission of the word ‘SECULAR’ in the preamble of the country’s draft constitution now under review.

Two pastors and the Gambia Christian Council (GCC) raised concerns over the omission in the draft constitution, expressing fears that the new constitution might promote Islam over other religions and eventually lead to the creation of an Islamic state.

The country’s constitutional review commission (CRC) is on a nationwide tour for the second phase of the national consultation process.

The GCC demanded the insertion of ‘Secular’ in the draft constitution to allay their fears, arguing that the mere guaranteeing of freedom to worship and association was not convincing to the Christian community.

“There is a hidden agenda of slowly Islamizing this nation, if all those clauses are there to protect different beliefs why are they (CRC) insisting to take out the word SECULAR in the Draft Constitution. You see SECULAR is the fence, if the word SECULAR is there, the country cannot be an Islamic country and it cannot be a Judo-Christian country - it stays neutral,” Pastor Moses Sonko stated.

He pointed out that the influence of Islam was gaining momentum in Gambian societies to the detriment of other religions, stressing that Christian students at St. Therese and Nusrat Senior Secondary Schools were forced to put on veil against their will and wishes.   

“If we are to face the facts and look at the realities and look at everything that is going on around in The Gambia, you can see that there is a very slow intentional infiltration of the Islamic influence in The Gambia.

“In Christian schools which already have their uniforms through the infusion of these Islamic influences, they are forced to change their uniforms upon request,” Pastor Sonko adduced.

Pastor Seal S. Jammeh, Light and Salt Crystal Chapel, travelled over 60 kilometres away from Banjul to catch up with members of the CRC at Kerewan, North Bank Region of the country, to express his opinion on this intriguing subject.

According to him, guaranteeing the freedom to associate and practice any religion alone in the draft constitution was not enough.

He argued that what was more convincing to the Christian population was to insert the word SECULAR in the draft constitution.

Pastor Jammeh pointed out that the draft constitution proposed the funding of Madarasas (Islamic school) and payment of salaries to Imams, while refusing to make the same provision for Christian bible schools, pastors and bishops.

“What I and many other Christians want to see is for the Constitutional Review Commission to insert the word SECULAR in the Draft Constitution. It doesn’t matter how many sections that talks about religion freedom and all we want to see is SECULAR in our new constitution,” Pastor Jammeh pointed out.

In December 2018, the Gambia Christian Council wrote to the commission to consider leaving some words in preamble of the 1997 constitution, arguing that this would create a level playing field that would allow all religious groups to practise their faith without any interference.

The council called on members of the Commission to maintain the preamble of the constitution.

They observed that the preamble should maintain the “secularity” of The Gambia and the right to freedom of religion and worship.

“Some of the wordings of the old Preamble need to be retained in the new constitution; The Gambia is a sovereign, secular republic with diverse ethnic, linguistic and religious freedom and social cohesion,” the GCC said.


-0-     PANA      MSS/RA   4Dec2019