Fellow Gambians,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Tomorrow is Christmas Day, which is an important day on the solar calendar. As we look forward to celebrating it, we must thank the Almighty God and praise Him for granting us the divine blessing of living to witness another Christmas season. No matter what our concerns or fears may have been during the course of the year, this is a moment of joy, celebration and thanksgiving.

It is particularly so for the Christian Community, noting that Christmas means a lot to them; therefore, I congratulate all Christians on this solemn occasion. However, I hasten to pay tribute to all those who lost their lives during the year, either due to the pandemic or any other cause. We pray that the departed souls rest in peace.
As a nation, we express heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families, and pray that God strengthens their faith to bear the loss.

Fellow Gambians,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Like other communities, the Christian Community was not spared by the pandemic. The challenges it posed globally prevented them from attending church service to fulfil their religious duties. As COVID cases surged in the country, they could not even attend to their major religious functions and feasts, such as Easter.

Life and time are marked by events and lessons. As servants of God, the pandemic has taught us bitter, but useful lessons about life.

It has reminded us of our weakness as human beings and that, no matter how absorbed we may be in worldly affairs, life is not within our control. This should compel us to give due attention to our obligations, and accord human life significance over everything else.

In harmony with the beliefs and teachings of Christianity, my government maintains that any action taken in the country must seek to protect life and the livelihoods of the people. The attainment of such noble goals makes it obligatory for all citizens, regardless of religious affiliation, to consistently dialogue, cooperate and support one another.

I am pleased to observe that Christians in the country have been patient and cooperative. The Christian Council, for example, has been engaging my government, and has remained law-abiding, while supporting our development efforts.

When unusual resolutions had to be made, leading to the declaration of a State of Public Emergency, the Community restrained themselves and acted with due diligence. I commend The Gambia Christian Council, therefore, and the entire Christian Community in the country for their support, patience, discipline and cooperation.

Fellow Gambians,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we go through the phases of reshaping and consolidating our democratic institutions, every sector of our society would certainly wish to reclaim and assert their rights to ensure that they have a Constitutional shield against injustice.

In this respect, the Christians have been playing an active role in making their collective voice heard to make sure that their rights are protected, especially as Constitutional matters continue to feature on our national agenda.

It is reassuring that Gambians recognise that such efforts should always focus on finding common ground on issues that generate divergent views. This is one of the key features of democracy, but it is important that no section of society overplays its role.

I am alive to the principle that everyone has the right to be protected, no matter what our religious beliefs may be. Even though Christians are statistically a minority community in The Gambia, their rights are as significant as the rights of their non-Christian compatriots. As citizens, all are equal before the law, and have equal rights. We are Gambians without distinction, and should strive together for the progress and development of our dear country.
To sustain peaceful coexistence and progress, regardless of who or what we are, we have to adhere to the basic principles of living together, accommodating one another and acting as law-abiding citizens.

It is fundamental to remember that one’s rights end where another person’s rights begin. To live harmoniously, we have to embrace and promote the universal values of patience, tolerance, love and care when we deal with our fellow citizens or other human beings.

Fellow Gambians,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Under my leadership, the Government will always defend the right to protection, safety and security for all citizens, including the Christian Community.
In The Gambia, our relationships go beyond religion; we are neighbours and family.

Reflecting on the history of the nation, I recognise the role of the Christian Community in national development and their significant contribution to the lives of the people. Their humanitarian engagements are quite visible. We know that many prominent non-Christian Gambians have been educated in Christian schools, and the number keeps increasing.

We are aware, to cite another example, that Christian charity groups support refugees in the country, yet the majority of the beneficiaries are non-Christians. These are noble acts of generosity arising from their belief and desire to serve God and humanity. We thank all of them for being charitable.

As we continue to develop and evolve as a true democratic nation, my government remains committed to safeguarding the rights of all minority groups, and we will continue to accommodate them in the governance structures of the country. This has been reflected in my Cabinet.

The main objective is for us to work and develop together to become stronger and happier as Gambians. When abnormal things happen along the way, we must accommodate the divergent views that surface, and reconcile them through constructive dialogue.

Fellow Gambians,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

2020 is a year to be remembered for the unfortunate, huge loss of lives around the world. We mourn for all of them, including prominent personalities like Bishop Emeritus, Michael Joseph Cleary, who touched many lives and contributed to the development of our dear country. Once again, we pray that they rest in eternal peace.

I ask our Christian brothers and sisters, through the guidance of their leadership, to pray for the continual wellbeing of all Gambians and peoples of the world. These are times that call for prayers for global peace, for respite from the pandemic, for the recovery of all those affected by ill-health and for the revival of the world economies.

 

We are grateful to God that coronavirus infections and related deaths in the country have declined. Let us give thanks, and pray that life returns to complete normalcy so that we can forge ahead with our development programmes. We thank all those who contributed to the fight against the pandemic.

As we celebrate Christmas, let everyone be mindful of the health guidelines and regulations, and ensure that we wear a mask whenever we have to go to public places.

I wish you all Merry Christmas.