Christians in The Gambia Worried about New Constitution
Due to this, the Christian community feels vulnerable at a time when the country is undergoing tremendous change.
The Gambia is a small country on the West coast of Africa, nestled inside of Senegal. It is the smallest country on mainland Africa by area and has a population of about 2 million people.
In 2017, the former president/dictator, Yahya Jammeh, was overthrown and a new interim president was put in place. Jammeh had been in power for more than 20 years and had amended their previous constitution more than 50 time to ensure he remained in power. He had also declared that the Gambia was an Islamic State in 2016.
Due to all of his amendments and the way that the constitution had changed, the new government is looking to establish a new constitution. This year, a draft was completed and put before the parliament for approval. This constitution had a lot of good to it. These changes included term limits on the president, guaranteed religious freedom, and forbade any future declaration of a state religion.
Despite this, it would have also allowed a strengthen Sharia system to have more control over Christians now and in the future. This would have included the Sharia court being held on the same level as the Supreme court in Gambia.
Though for now it would have been only over personal matters for Muslims, the constitution would have left it open to changes that could allow it to have control in criminal and civil matters. It would have also immediately given jurisdiction over Christians in interfaith marriages and families.
The draft was not approved, but that does not mean that it will not be approved in the near future. There is hope that the new constitution will be in place before elections take place next year.