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Senegalese Religious Brother Advocates for Christian Representation in Planned Elections

Br. Pierre-Marie Niang. Credit: Fidespost

A religious Brother in the West African nation of Senegal is advocating for election of Christian candidates in the local elections scheduled to take place on Sunday, January 23.

In a Thursday, January 20 report published by the Fidespost, Br. Pierre-Marie Niang argues that the conspicuous absence of Christians in Senegal’s municipal councils has resulted in the marginalization of the followers of Christ.

“The fact that Christians have been conspicuously absent from municipal councils for a long time has strongly contributed to our own marginalization and therefore to suffering injustices that we have been denouncing,” Br. Niang has been quoted as saying.

The member of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans – OP) further says, “The main purpose of these local elections is to defend the interests of our Church-Family of God through a Christian presence on every city council.”

He continues, “The purpose of a Christian presence in the municipal council is to ensure that these injustices are not repeated and that they are distant memories.” 

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The Dominican Brother bemoans issues around land saying, “In Parcelles Assainies, there is at least one piece of land destined for the Catholic Church that has been diverted to other purposes by crooked politicians.” 

“To ensure that the Church is no longer robbed or forgotten in the distribution of things that are its rightful due, like the other religious components of each commune, let us think of our brothers and sisters who alone can be our best advocates within the municipal decision-making bodies,” Br. Niang says.

He urges the “Church-Family of God” in Senegal to “ensure that its members are represented in the municipal councils” and adds, “If we ourselves do not invest in supporting our candidates, no one will do it for us.”

The January 23 local elections, which were initially scheduled to take place in 2019, are to be followed by legislative elections.

Tension has been mounting in the West African country as a group of some 20 opposition leaders launched a large coalition to challenge the ruling party of President Macky Sall.

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Last November, several opposition coalitions denounced the rejection of their lists in various localities of the country,  RFI reported.

In the January 20 report, Br. Niang appeals to the sense of responsibility of “all our Church-Family of God so that it can grasp the real stakes of these electoral contests that should not be apprehended from a political point of view.”

For those who will be tempted to see our call to support our Christian brothers and sisters who are candidates for the local elections as a discourse of identity and exclusivity, Br. Niang poses, “At what point did they rise to allow Christians to enjoy all their rights solum et totum?”

“When they gave to some and voluntarily forgot the others, that is to say us, where were they? And we would like them to describe the numerous injustices that were done to our community by maliciously taking away prerogatives that were rightfully theirs,” he adds.

He further poses, “If no one has come to the defense of our Christian community in giving it back what rightfully it deserves, why should we be blamed for going after what belongs to us by identifying it as a discourse of identity?”

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“From the moment when the equitable treatment of all the inhabitants of a council has not always been the priority of certain politicians, it makes sense to support those whose vocation is to put an end to the numerous injustices that our community has suffered by the sole fact of its absence from the decision-making bodies,” Br. Niang says in the report.

He urges Christian politicians to be “Salt and light in the political field, and work for the respect of the rights of all citizens of your council.” 

“This is perhaps the particular touch that Christians can bring to politics: when you are elected, you must be at the service of all without exclusion,” he adds.

The Dominican Brother notes that the “the elected municipal official or councilor must see to it that all the inhabitants of his or her municipality are treated equally,” and adds, “The true elected official is the one who is at the service of all the inhabitants of the city without any form of discrimination based on religion,”

Last month, religious leaders in Senegal appealed for “calm, restraint and respect for others” amid tensions ahead of local elections.

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“We reiterate our call for calm, restraint and respect for others. With all, we say: No to violence,” the religious leaders said at their December 20 joint press conference.

They added, “This country belongs to us. It is our duty to protect it, to contribute to its development and to its influence. In the diversity of our opinions and choices, let us remain serene, peaceful and respectful.”