AFRICA/SIERRA LEONE - "We want to collaborate with the new government, especially on education"

Friday, 8 June 2018 bishops   education  

Rome (Agenzia Fides) - "We have a new government and we hope the health system, put to the test by the recent Ebola epidemic, is among its priorities", says His Exc. Mgr. Charles A.M. Campbell, Bishop of Bo and President of the Inter-Territorial Catholic Bishops' Conference (ITCABIC) of Gambia and Sierra Leone, in an interview with Agenzia Fides on the occasion of the ad limina visit.
In early April, former opponent Julius Maada Bio took office as the new Head of State, raising hopes for change among the population, put to the test by the 2016 Ebola outbreak.
"The new government offers the population new perspectives. In particular, one of the government's main projects is to offer free primary and secondary education starting from the next school year which begins in September", said Mgr. Campbell. "We cannot wait for the project to take off but at the same time we want to carefully evaluate what the government intends to do especially towards the Church, because many schools are Catholic".
"Thanks to the efforts of the missionaries, the Catholic Church has numerous schools that we intend to maintain in a spirit of cooperation with the government", he stresses. "As a Church we do not feel put aside in government education projects, but more needs to be done to strengthen collaboration with state institutions. We have had difficulty in collaborating with the government in the last 10 years after the approval of the 2004 Education Act. At an ecumenical and inter-religious level we have tried to do everything possible to dialogue with the government".
"In any case, we are more than willing to cooperate in education, because it is a fundamental sector in the development of any nation", the Bishop remarks. "On the other hand, we want to preserve the wonderful legacy left by the missionaries, who have done an excellent job through schools. Some of our priests come from Muslim families but studied in Catholic schools".
Regarding interreligious relations with local Islam, Bishop Campbell affirms: "we are happy that at the moment a strong religious tolerance prevails in our Country which favors interreligious dialogue and collaboration between Christians and Muslims. But we are worried by the spread of the Tabligh society, which preaches a form of Islam that is different from what we know. Their preachers, coming from abroad, and are recruiting young local Muslims, to indoctrinate them to an intolerant and extremist vision of their faith", he concludes. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 8/6/2018)