THE SERREKUNDA CONSTITUENCY LEVEL ENGAGEMENT ON FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF (FORB), THE GAMBIA

On the 18th June 2023, a community engagement was organized by the Africa Centre for Parliamentary Affairs (ACEPA) in collaboration with The Gambian Parliamentary Caucus on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB), with the objective to campaign for the promotion and protection of FoRB in The Gambia in Serrekunda Bartez. The meeting was moderated by Ms. Fanta Secka ACEPA-FoRBLN Consultant in the Gambia.

The meeting which brought together members from the Community of Serrekunda Constituency and Parliamentarians was held at Bartez which is in the centre of town within the Kanifing Municipal Council. A total of 30 participants from these stakeholders participated in this meeting. The meeting was opened with prayers from both the Muslim and Christian participants.

The purpose of this engagement was to sensitize members of the Community of Serrekunda on the concept of FoRB and the misconceptions surrounding it as well as address the legislative barriers to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) and the social mores that support societal hostility towards minority groups on account of their religion or belief.

The Executive Director of ACEPA, Dr. Rasheed Draman in his opening statement thanked the Parliamentarians present, community elders and the youth for honouring the invitation. He stated that this meeting was a follow-up on the earlier ones they held in Wellingara and Brikama South Constituency this year and buttressed the point that ACEPA felt the need to continue discussion and engaging communities on issues of FoRB. He used the opportunity to remind participants that The Gambia is one of four (4) countries across Africa and South Asia where the FoRBLN program is being implemented. The second phase of program implementation has earmarked constituency engagements and seminar meetings at national level by members of the Parliamentary caucus on Freedom of Religion of Belief (FoRB) as key activities to be carried out on a monthly basis till the end of the program in September, 2023.

He went on to state that The Gambia has been touted as a shining example of a country where interreligious tolerance thrives, communities with people from different religious background live together harmoniously, and intermarriages among Muslims and Christians are commonplace; and religious festivals are observed by all without exception. Notwithstanding the peace and stability The Gambia currently enjoys resulting from excellent interreligious understanding and harmony, there are pockets of religious discrimination and marginalization experienced by minority groups in the country that has the potential to fester into a conflict situation in the future. Dr. Rasheed noted that organizing this meeting at the community level provides unique opportunity for more engaging and interactive discussions between community members and members of parliament.

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