STATEMENT OF THE RELIGOUS LIBERTY COMMISSION OF THE WORLD EVANGELICAL ALLIANCE
For Immediate Release
July 7, 2011
WEA-RLC has learnt that at least six churches were attacked during the recent protests over constitutional amendments in Senegal in West Africa. These attacks in the national capital of Dakar are worrisome and puzzling, as this Muslim-majority country is seen as a model of tolerance and religious co-existence.
Protests erupted on June 23 after President Abdoulaye Wade made an attempt at what the civil society and political opposition called a “constitutional coup.” His government introduced a bill seeking constitutional amendment reducing the requirement of at least 50 percent votes to become President to 25 percent so that Wade, in power for 11 years, could remain in office.
“The protests had nothing to do with the churches that were attacked,” Executive Director Godfrey Yogarajah said. “It is also clear,” Godfrey added, “that the attacks were not spontaneous; they were planned and organized taking advantage of the protests. How else do you make sense of mobs launching attacks on six churches when there was absolutely no immediate provocation?”
Local sources have told WEA-RLC that the mobs targeted new churches including Pentecostal and Baptist, which are growing in the country. The Roman Catholic Church is seen as a traditional organization in Senegal, but some Protestant congregations are accused of having links with foreign groups and are therefore seen with suspicion.
While churches have been attacked in the country in the past, violence of this scale is a new development. Sufi Islam, to which the majority of Senegal’s Muslims belong, is widely believed to be tolerant. Over 90 percent of the 12.5 million people in the country are Muslim.
Abdoul Aziz Kebe, an Imam at a Dakar mosque and Professor of Islamology at Cheikh anta Diop University, condemned the violence, stressing that Islam calls for peaceful relations between Muslims and members of other religions, according to West Africa Democracy Radio.
“It is worrisome that no one, not even the government, has a clue who the attackers were although the attacks raise many questions. Does that mean a section of the Sufi Muslims have become extremist? If so, is a foreign group behind it or some insiders are promoting radical Islam? Who is their leader? What is the strength of this new grouping and what are their plans?” Godfrey said.
WEA-RLC urges the government to ensure religious freedom for all Christian and other groups, to investigate all aspects of the violence to nip in the bud the efforts to radicalise sections of the local Muslims, and to abstain from violently repressing the protests which will only lead to a state of anarchy in the country.
For further information please contact Godfrey Yogarajah, Executive Director, at [email protected], or visit http://www.worldevangelicals.org/commissions/rlc/.
The Religious Liberty Commission is monitoring the religious liberty situation in more than 100 nations, defending persecuted Christians, informing the global church, challenging the Church to pray (www.idop.org) and giving all possible assistance to those who are suffering. The Commission also makes fact-finding trips and meets with governments and ambassadors speaking up for the suffering brothers and sisters. At the United Nations, the Commission reports about the situation and arranges special hearings with Christians from countries under pressure.