I salute you, Most Reverend, Catholic Bishop of Banjul: Grace and Peace to you!

Indeed I remain excited and jubilant about your ordination as the first Gambian Catholic Bishop. I just cannot stop celebrating this great feat especially for the fact that you are indeed my brother from Lamin and my senior at our alma mater St. Peter’s Technical High School. 

My prayer for you remains long life, Divine guidance and protection. For what else could I pray for you? My good old mother always taught me in Mandinka proverb that you don’t pray for an elephant to be big because it is the nature of elephants to be huge, you only pray for the elephant to live long. So may you live long our Holy Bishop for success shall be yours.

The purpose of this epistle is to send my season’s greetings to you and your flock. Given the subtle attacks of the secular fundamentalists on our common Abrahamic religious practices I shall not just call this “season’s greetings”. Like I proclaimed in a recent Facebook post “forget about happy #holidays; it’s #Christmas that we are celebrating!” Indeed Sheikh Hamza Yusuf is right: “the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims are members of the Abrahamic family and the Quran commands us to respect the other family members, to protect them when threatened, and to honour them when safe. We have a shared faith in all of the biblical prophets, the Messianic reality of Jesus, and his virgin birth, not to mention a belief in the afterlife of final judgement with its rewards and retributions.”

So ours is a great family numbering in the billions and spread all over the world. And I do hope and pray that those who do not want to recognise or appreciate religion or religious symbolism, would at least be honest and fair enough to live their professed democratic ethos to “live and let live”.

Most Reverend, my dear senior brother, in view of the foregoing premises, shall we not, as Muslims and Christians, come together on a common platform to create a rampart against the current onslaught of the secular fundamentalists against religion and religious practice. They may be coming with a thousand and one subterfuges and other beguiling decoys but the true aim of the secularists is to gradually but effectively remove religion from our lives. Therefore, it is our collective duty to protect the heritage of the arch-prophet Abraham. The battle may be tough but victory shall be for us because verily the Light of God will always prevail over the forces of darkness.

And as they read this epistle that is addressed to you, and not them, their counter arguments would be the occasional abuses of religion and inter-faith imbroglios; forgetting that the greatest atrocities in human history were committed not in the name of religion but irreligious people with secular motivations occasionally dressed in religious robes. And should they bring the argument of inter-faith conflagrations, then shall we not show them the inspiring example of The Gambia. Forget about the little blemish caused by our former President’s unilateral declaration of The Gambia as an Islamic Republic; this was his personal ambition and as for his motivations, even his closest ministers and personal friends I spoke to on this matter had no clue as to what was going on in the man’s head at the time. But if you look back at the aftermath of that declaration and what preceded it, any honest human being would admit that there was no real change in the status quo. Gambians seem to be hardwired for religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence based on mutual respect.

So The Gambia was, and remains, an oasis of religious tolerance and harmony in the desert of bigotry and intolerance that is our modern world.

My prayer is that we as a nation do not take our inter-faith harmony for granted but to work on it and cultivate it so that it doesn’t atrophy but grows and blooms for harvest and export world-wide.

In parting, Most Reverend, I wish to let you know that I have been revising my Bible Knowledge notes from High school of late. (And God bless Father David Jimoh Jarju who taught me Bible studies at O Levels in the 90s). I am deeply fascinated with the story of the Lord’s Anointed in the first book of Samuel. The same story deeply engages my mind when I read the Quranic version of it towards the end of the second chapter, Surah Baqarah, verses 246-252. 

Indeed Allah is right as He asserts at the end of His narration of our common heritage, the story of Prophet Joseph, in the 12th Chapter of the Quran: “There was certainly in their stories a lesson for those of understanding. Never was the Qur’an a narration invented, but a confirmation of what was before it and a detailed explanation of all things and guidance and mercy for a people who believe.”

In the story of King Saul, I see a great similitude with the current happenings in our own promised land, the Smiling Coast. Am I wrong, Monsignor?

While looking forward to a response from you, once again, I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year .

Momodou Sabally

The Gambia’s Pen