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Independence Anniversary in Edmonton: Christians, Muslims, pray together

By  | 27 April 2015 at 19:09 | 3725 views

Compatriots and well-wishers of Sierra Leone came together under one roof in Edmonton, Canada, this past Saturday April 25. It was a well-planned event, with Christians and Muslims in synchronized worship . Indeed, each faith courteously joined the other’s supplications to Allah or God Almighty.

The event took place at the Abbottsfield Recreation Centre, in the northeast of the city. It was organized by the Sierra Leone-Canada Friendship Association (SLCFA), to mark the 54th anniversary of this West African country. Sierra Leone, a tiny but resource-rich nation, was a colony of Britain and it became independent on April 27, 1961.

SLCFA chose Saturday’s date well in advance, asking members to fast all day and then bring in potluck food to break the fasting as a community. By sunset, buffet tables were generously set for self-serve ’break fast.’ At the agreed time to end the rite, a number of people who could not fast themselves volunteered to serve food and drinks to those who had abstained from eating or drinking. They focused on senior compatriots who were understandably less inclined to go to the table by themselves. "We need to look out for one another," one of the volunteers reasoned. "Here, religion or ethnicity does not matter, we believe in the same God."

The opening formalities began just after dark, when SLCFA executives Mrs. Salimatu Clarke and Mrs. Martha Ishiekwene Sellu were joined at the high table by Muslim community leaders Alhaji Bangura, Pa Ishmael Sheriff, David Dominic, and Vangamoh Sheriff. They each preached Godly love, peace and unity, as they took turns in citing the Holy Quran and praying for Sierra Leone.

Pa Sheriff drew a chorus of "Ameen" and applause as he chanted "Let us pray to Allah for the Green, White and Blue." He was referring to the horizontal colours of Sierra Leone’s national flag. Embattled by war between 1991 and 2002, and lately by the Ebola disease, Sierra Leoneans still strive, hope and pray for better days.

"I was born in Kabala but I grew up in Bo, peacefully and happily," Pa Ishmael Sheriff said proudly. He announced this , as he urged fellow Sierra Leoneans to ignore ethnicity and work in harmony wherever they live.

David Dominic in his turn, likened Sierra Leone to a house as he admonished his countrymen and women to cooperate in decorating it for all the world to see. He downplayed ethnic differences among Sierra Leoneans.

During an interlude, there was a solo rendition of a song in memory of a lady who died of the Ebola in Sierra Leone. Adama Bangura told the congregation that she was inspired by the Holy Bible account (Mark 5: 25-34), about a woman who was healed by Jesus after she wholeheartedly affirmed her faith in the Nazarene. Adama based her touching tune on the Bible passage, after her own sister passed away from the deadly Ebola.

Next was a light hearted moment when the Sierra Leone - Edmonton Christian Community Choir was given the floor. Everybody was laughing and cheering as ’The Salone Quick Choir’ was introduced. The joke vividly betrayed the manner in which the choral group was formed.

Still, the ’choristers’ performed admirably, winning wide applause at the end. Singers included Chemistry academic Dr. Alfred Saffa and his wife Theresa, Martha Sellu, Adama and her husband Amara Bangura, Isatu Marah and her daughter Mabinty, Rachel Fallah, Jami Saffa, Kemoh Mansaray, Thomas (TK) Alie, and Samba Koroma. Harrison Collier played keyboards while Ivan Jackson was on guitar. Mr. Magona Kallon who led the performance had earlier given out hymn sheets. This encouraged some in the congregation to join the singing of popular Christian choruses.

Lay Preacher Amara Bangura soon took the microphone when it was time for Christian worship. Brother Bangura reminded compatriots about Christ’s call for people to "worship God in truth and spirit," and not be hypocrites like Pharisees.

He urged fellow Sierra Leoneans to avoid procrastination in their worldly lives, and to clean their personal affairs before pointing blaming fingers at others. "It takes real sacrifice, and proper time management for us to help Sierra Leone move forward." Preacher Amara challenged: "If we cannot volunteer our time and energy to make the (Edmonton) community succeed here, how can we expect better from our brothers and sisters still living in Sierra Leone?"

Mr. Amara Bangura, stated that older compatriots need to turn to God and lead good lives that younger generations would admire and emulate.

On a similar note, SLCFA president Kemoh Mansaray asked the older generation to show understanding in dealing with young Sierra Leoneans in the community. "We should treat the youths like our own children, instead of spreading bad rumours about them and pushing them away."

The programme came to a close with each man, woman and child standing up and holding the hand or arm of the next person. Most heads bowed and many eyes closed, a prayer was said by Mrs. Isatu Marah. This display of harmony between the two religions may be uncommon in other parts of the world. It is clearly not so among Sierra Leoneans, no matter where they live.

In fact, a similar Independence commemoration took place here in Edmonton, around the same time last year. It is quite likely to continue annually. Saturday’s gathering simply set religious differences aside and focused more on the belief in one Almighty being. All this was done in the collective spirit of ’Land that we Love, Sierra Leone.’