Monday, December 29, 2008
It is with honor and much humility that I once again address you on the eve of Christmas.
My humility is attributable to the realization that once again, we have been blessed to witness yet another celebration of the Nativity, a tradition observed by Christmas throughout the world. As we commemorate this joyful occasion, I give praise and thanks to the Almighty Allah for this divine blessing and I therefore seize this opportunity to wish my fellow citizens and all Friends of The Gambia residing in and out side the country, a very Merry Christmas!
Indeed as with all religious feasts, Christmas is also a time for family reunion and a time for caring for and sharing with the less fortunate [among us]. But more particularly, it is a time for communion between man and God. It also coincides with that time of the year when we take stock of our lives and assess our relationship with God and with man. This period of spiritual assessment should allow for a better preparation of an improved life characterized by greater spiritual richness, peace with oneself and happiness in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ.
As we reflect on the religious significance of Christmas and on our actions during the year, I want us to pause for a minute to think about the big and small mercies that the Good Lord has bestowed on us in the course of the year. I also want us to reflect on how much we have given to God and to society. Christmas teaches us virtues of sharing, caring and humanity.
We see Jesus being born into a humble background but we also see the kings, the wise men and others come to kneel before his crib. Christmas also preaches unity. We also see Jesus Christ and the Christian faith uniting men and women from different walks of life. These symbolisms are too great and remain valid for modern day societies.
Yet, human actions in most parts of the world today are at complete variance with our religious beliefs. I therefore urge every Gambian, irrespective of ethnic or religious affinity to jealously treasure a quality that has come to form part of the qualities that make us Gambian: our unqualified acceptance and tolerance of each other and of different religious groupings living side by side harmoniously.
This religious tolerance has been manifested in so many ways, not least in the participation of Muslims and other religious bodies in the celebration of Christmas; Let us continue to inculcate these virtues in our children as the future leaders of this country. We should therefore encourage them to participate in the traditional cultural masquerades that make the Christmas period a unique experience in The Gambia.
This would also ensure that our children appreciate and noture our culture, which is slowly being threatened by western pop culture. The traditional Fanal, Kumpo, kankurang and hunting just to name a few, really add the spice to the Christmas season and we must not allow this to disappear. Added to the qualities of religious tolerance and cultural orientation, we are blessed with another quality that resides in our centuries old culture of caring and sharing with families, friends and even complete strangers.
This practice has been and continues to be safety net for some of the most vulnerable in our society. Unfortunately, the current economic crunch that has rocked the world will further compound difficulties for them and will affect even the most well off of societies. However, let us be thankful to Allah for all the small mercies he has granted us and try to help those who are finding it difficult to make a decent living. Let me hasten to add that while I believe in sharing, I do not condone laziness and the lack of ambition to develop and uplift oneself from poverty.
Similarly, for those of us who are privilege to witness Christmas in good health, we must not forget the sick. Let us each dedicate Some time off our busy schedule to visit and share with them whatever little blessings that the Almighty Allah has showered on us so that they too can partake of the joys of Christmas.
Indeed the lessons derived from Jesus’ birth and humble but dignified background are many, yet, individuals, companies and governments are fired by greed and the will to acquire more wealth to the detriment of fellow human beings. At this juncture, my thoughts are prayers go out to the millions of families around the world affected by the current economic crisis and who will not celebrate Christmas as usual.
As we celebrate Christmas, let us also pray that the plight of those directly affected will be eased. Let us also pray for our brothers and sisters in countries where there is instability and conflict that affect their peace and sustenance.
Coming back to the home front, while we pride ourselves on our qualities, we must take a hard look at social ills that we seem to be cultivating either by design or by accident. Let us use Joseph as our role model for hard work. I urge every young man and woman of this country to take up decent jobs in agriculture, fisheries and livestock to make a living in order not to become liabilities to their parents and to society.
Rather, they should strive to become assets to the development of their country. I urge every school going child and every student to focus seriously on their education and think about how they will contribute positively to society in the future. I call on all parents to redouble their efforts in the upbringing of children.
For, it is only when we play our role as effective parents and we monitor our children from the home and the school that we will be assured of a generation of citizens that we cannot only be proud of but also one that will not only be ready to take over the management of this country but capable of changing it efficiently.
Fellow Citizens in anticipation therefore of a developed, disciplined and hardworking nation strengthen by our faith in the teachings of our prophets and the Holy Books, I urge every citizen to uphold their religion in dignity and mutual respect guided by our constitution and the ideals and principles that bind us as a God-fearing nation.
Finally, as you engage in the prayers and merriment of this festive season, please exercise caution and moderation in your merriment and especially for the younger generation, avoid over speeding and drink-driving to ensure a hitch-free celebrations. I wish all Gambians and residents in The Gambia and indeed humanity at large, a very merry and peaceful Christmas.
May God the Almighty shower his bounteous blessings on us all during this festive season and beyond.