We, the believers of the different religions, know that our witness to God benefits our societies.
The effort to seek God with a sincere heart…helps us recognize one another as travelling companions,
truly brothers and sisters. –FRATELLI TUTTI 274
This article first appeared in the 2021 Trust & Dare
Sister Ejura Elizabeth, second row third from the left, gathers with friends and colleagues at St. Edwards School in The Gambia, where both Islam and Christianity are part of the curriculum.
School Sisters of Notre Dame first arrived in The Gambia, West Africa, in 1990. With a population of more than 2.2 million people, 96% are Muslim and 4% are Christian. Sister Ejura Elizabeth Michael has spent the last five years in The Gambia in full-time education ministry. As a Catholic Sister and educator in a predominantly Muslim country, challenges exist.
“I have come to learn that, as Christians, we have fundamental elements to consider when relating with those of different faiths, in this case Muslims,” said Sister Ejura. “It is our sacred duty to project the elements of welcome, truth, collaboration and prophetic witness.”“Being an SSND sister has taught me the values of universal love and compassion which have enabled me to see and accept others for who they are and respect their opinions even if they don’t agree with mine,” she said.According to Sister Ejura, “at the end of the day, we are all bound together in our common humanity that matters because we were all created in the image and likeness of God. We, by our very existence and relationships, have become co-creators with God.” Pope Francis, in his encyclical
Fratelli Tutti, emphasizes that “there is a drop of God in every one of us and hence, believing this should help us to rise above petty divisions and prejudices,” explained SisterShe recognizes “it is so easy to label people” and clarifies “not every Muslim is a terrorist. We must not generalize from the fact that some Muslims have used their religion to defend terrorist activities to support their assertion that all Muslims are terrorists.”
There are many areas in which common convictions enable Christians and Muslims to work together in The Gambia. In the schools, Christians and non-Christian teachers work collectively to ensure that the children receive a quality education. “During social activities, one cannot tell the difference because religion disappears and humanity takes prominence,” said Sister Ejura.
As minorities, Christians in The Gambia are allowed to practice and spread their faith without hindrance. During celebrations or other liturgical observances, there is a mutual understanding and respect between the Muslim and Christian communities and invitations to participate in each other’s activities. “Living in a predominantly Muslim country has helped me to look at things from a different perspective and has been a privileged opportunity to learn from our Muslim counterparts,” said Sister Ejura.
“I have committed myself to living and teaching the values of respecting and loving others, welcoming differences, and prioritizing the dignity of every human being over his or her ideas, opinions and practices. When people come to understand that they are treated with compassionate love and acceptance, not condemnation and pre-judgement for the faith they practice, they begin to learn to reciprocate the gesture of kindness and love,” Sister Ejura stated.