By: Dawda Baldeh
Presiding over the opening of the African Ulama Conference organized by World Muslims League on Tuesday 6th December 2022, President Adama Barrow urged religious leaders to promote peace and unity in the region and beyond.
He underscored the significance of the theme of the conference: “Promotion of Peace, Understanding and Unity among Communities and Nations,” saying there couldn’t be a better theme than that considering ongoing conflicts in some parts of the region.
“I urge African ‘ulama’ to collaborate more closely with their counterparts in other parts of the world to be part of the global community yet protect the basic principles of Islam. African Muslims should serve as agents of peace and unity to further strengthen Islam,” Barrow said.
He expressed Gambia’s appreciation to the organizers for choosing the country to host the all-important conference, saying it means a lot to the people of The Gambia.
“I urge all of us, especially the Ulama, to exploit the good and best practices learned and linkages created here as a means of fostering religious tolerance in Africa and the world at large. It is impractical to divorce religious beliefs from culture and social settings.
We must blend and balance the two sides of life harmoniously to succeed both ways. Muslims continue to be divided into different sects and even fight each other like enemies. Islam invites us to the path of peace, grounded in self-submission,” he noted.
President Barrow said Islam provides a package for a complete lifestyle which propagates tolerance and compassion and teaches people how to relate to families, neighbours and people of different faiths or beliefs.
“Despite all fears and challenges, there are lots of opportunities to reverse these trends by strengthening Islamic knowledge to preserve the main teachings of Islam. Muslims, especially the youths and elites, also have many options to build their capacity, balance their worldview and values and resist adopting non-Islamic ways of life,” he stated.
The President also spoke on the importance of the media in propagating the true teachings of Islam.
“Let us harness the media to prevent attacks waged against Islam, while educating and creating better awareness of the beauty and good things the great religion brings to humankind. We should accept and accommodate the reality of our similarities and differences. Such characteristics should remind us to acknowledge each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Our beliefs and differences should not translate into undue hostility or be used against innocent people.
We should promote peace and unity, it is a precondition to promote love and respect, fight hate, quell conflicts, and recognize the dignity and honour of every human being. The Ulama have a huge role to play in all of these,” he explained.
According to President Barrow, the Ulamas are entrusted with interpreting the teachings of Islam, handling emerging issues, enhancing inter-faith dialogue, and settling hostilities, noting that most religious conflicts emanate from intolerance and the pursuit of worldly interests.
He described the Ulamas as the mouthpiece and trustees of the ‘Umma’ while urging them to address issues facing Islam.