Speech On Religious and Cultural Discriminations
By Backar Sesay, Secretary General, Action Star Youth Club (ASYC)
Mr. Chairman, His lordship the Mayor of Kenema Municipality, representatives of: line Ministries, Chiefdom and District Councils, Political Parties, Religious and Traditional Authorities, Security Personnel, the Press, distinguished guest, good morning ladies and gentlemen!
On behalf of the Action Star Youth Club, I’m delighted to be given the opportunity to speak on religious and cultural discrimination, which is one of the main themes of this symposium.
As we all aware, religion and culture are two different things in many modern communities, but in post war Sierra Leone where religious philosophies have rapidly consumed our natural cultures and traditions over the years, most cultural norms can no longer worth their values without blending them with religion. Similarly, culture and traditions are generally associated with ethnicity and tribes. I will therefore limit my discussions only to the negative impacts of and solutions to religious and cultural discriminations in this country.
Everyone of us knows that religion and culture are playing very important roles in our private and collective lives. While religion serves as the indelible link between man and God, culture symbolizes our heritage and true identities. So the two are very important aspects of every man’s life regardless racial and ethnic denominations. Religion and culture are the most powerful things that can unite people together in pursuance of one common goal. Some people can even sacrifice their lives in defense of their religion and culture without any hesitation.
However, religion and culture can also become the most destructive weapons on earth if practiced wrongly.
Whenever talking about religion and culture in post war Sierra Leone, many intellectuals usually refer to the few instances of inter-ethnic and Muslim/Christian marriages as signs of religious and cultural tolerance in the country. Yes, it’s true that some Sierra Leoneans are religiously and culturally tolerant. But when looked at the scenario from human right and democratic points of view, we should ask ourselves how many Sierra Leonean youths are allowed by their parents to freely practice religions different from that of the parents? How many Sierra Leonean youths are allowed to marry their desired husbands and wives without direct interference of their parents based on religious and cultural norms? How many young Christians are allowed to marry Muslims without forcing the woman to give up her own faith? How many youths are allowed to roam free without being forcefully initiated into secret societies that contribute little or nothing to their future? How many women are forced by traditional and religious norms to say “sorry” to their husbands as simple settlement methods of cases in which men were out-rightly wrong? How many girls are passing WASSCE without being coerced by their parents into calabash marriages while male members of the same family pursues to university based on the grounds that women are best useful as house wives and child bearers?
Ladies and gentlemen, the above are all negative impacts of religious and cultural discriminations hence they are influenced by culture, religion and traditions.
In order to salvage the situation and to save (we) the young generation from deliberate human right violations, I hereby take this opportunity to request decision makers, religious and traditional authorities to recognize articles 1, 16 and 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Right which took place on 10th December 1948 in Paris, as the best solutions. I quote:
Article 1: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”.
Article 16: “Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses”.
Article 18: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance”.
Finally, ladies and gentlemen, I would like on behalf of the Action Star Youth Club and all other direct or indirect beneficiaries of this project, to seize this opportunity to thank you all for your audience.
I’m Backar Sesay,