By Saikou Suwareh Jabai
The fourth edition of the annual international Inter-Faith Dialogue organised by the Side By Side Organization (SBSO) -The Gambia and its international partners was held at the TANGO conference hall in Fajara on Saturday, 2nd July, 2016.
The theme of the forum was ‘Strengthening Relationships through Interfaith Dialogue’.
Mr. Momodou S. Sowe, the Program Officer of SBSO, said the main objective of the program is to bring together the country’s two main religions and discuss the importance of living together and co-existing harmoniously.
“We are one people created by one God. We are diverse with different divisions but what is important is that we are created by one God,” he said.
He added that the organization is committed to rending valuable services to young people by raising their awareness on significant issues and empowering them to become national assets. He thanked the partners from USA for their continuous support and committed to the needs of young people in The Gambia.
He noted the various activities that the organization is embarking on, key among them are the Environmental Regeneration, Character Education, Spelling Competition, Inter-Faith Dialogue, and others.
For his part, the National Coordinator of SBSO, Mr. Hatab Fadera, commended the participants and the SBSO-USA for their attendance, adding that it is a clear indication of the importance of the inter-faith dialogue.
The organization, he said, is committed to promoting international peace and harmony among people of different faiths, backgrounds, ethnicity and race. He said the International Summer of Service is an annual program where volunteers from the Gambia and America join hands to educate and inform young people on issues that are vital to their living.
The inter-faith dialogue, he continued, is designed to focus on the critical issues of dialogue among religious denominations in the country. He said this is part of their commitment to consolidate and foster the peaceful co-existence of the two faiths in The Gambia.
Mrs. Aunty Beverly Berndt, the International Coordinator of SBSO Programs in America, reaffirmed her readiness to continue coming to The Gambia to meaningfully contribute in developing young people of the country.
She described Gambian youths as exceptional and expressed delight with their strong culture of volunteerism.
On Muslim-Christian relationship, she said it should be cordial and this can only happen if the two religions appreciate and respect each other’s values.
She thanked the SBSO in The Gambia for not relenting on their efforts in attaining its objectives.
Speaking on the topic ‘Muslim Perspective on Strengthening Interfaith Relations’, Dr. Omar Jah Jnr, the Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of The Gambia, said dialogue is one of the characteristics of Islam. He added: “In order to get a good grasp of the meaning of dialogue in Islam, let us also go back to its Qur’anic usage. Two terms have been used to denote dialogue and these are friendly dialogue (Hiwar) and argumentative dialogue (Jidal).”
He however said that the concept of dialogue was known before Islam, adding that long before the advent of Islam, Greek philosophers as part of the science of logical dialectics developed mechanisms for dialogue.
He said dialogue is the solution to the problems facing the peaceful co-existence of Islam and Christianity in the world. He urged the two faiths to unite and collectively fight their enemies, adding “if Muslims and Christians agree, there will be no war in the world.”
Speaking on the topic ‘Christian Perspective on Strengthening Interfaith Relations’, Father David Jimoh Jarju, the Catholic Education Secretary and a priest, said dialogue is a basic form of communication which entails sending and receiving understandable messages between two or more people by the use of words. He said it can create a bond between people and can lead to knowing and understanding each other. However, he added, initiating a dialogue can be risky. He said it must be based on honesty and justice and should seek to achieve a common good, adding that respect and acceptance of the other should be the bedrock of dialogue.
Father Jarju spoke at length about the forms of interfaith dialogue and noted that it is significant in ensuring the peaceful co-existence of Islam and Christianity in the Gambia. He said dialogue will bring unity, especially at a time when the country is been declared an Islamic state.