BANJUL, Gambia – Chaplain personnel from the Gambia Armed Forces and United States Army Africa met at the Gambia Pastoral Institute April 23-26 for their inaugural engagement.
GAF Capt. Joseph Carl Gomez, the senior Christian chaplain, initiated the dialogue with USARAF that led to this ground breaking event.
U.S. Army Maj. Matthew D. Madison, the USARAF operations chaplain, developed the assessment process, using a combination of briefings, question and answer meetings and small group discussions, to determine the GAF chaplaincy’s current capacities and how to effectively strengthen the partnership network.
For the first time in the Gambian chaplain corps history, Muslim and Christian chaplains gathered together in one place for discussion and fellowship.
“Their spirit of cooperation and mutual respect for each other’s faith is impressive and should serve as an example to other African nations and, really, the world as a whole,” Madison said. “Our own nation could benefit from Gambia’s approach to not only tolerating differences, but also celebrating them.”
Gomez and GAF Capt. Momodou Manneh, the senior Muslim chaplain, were instrumental in fostering this positive atmosphere of sharing and learning.
While in Gambia, Madison and U.S. Army Col. David W. Lile, the USARAF command chaplain, had the opportunity to help facilitate key religious leader engagements for U.S. Ambassador Richard Carlton Paschall III with Gambia’s bishop of Banjul, Imam Ratib, and the Gambia Supreme Islamic Council vice president. The intent of such meetings is to foster mutual cooperation and respect and demonstrate how church and state can work together for the common good of a nation and its people.
Madison and Lile worked with a group composed of 28 Muslim and Christian chaplains over the course of four days and gained a great appreciation for the religious support Gambian chaplains provide to the armed forces. Plans are already under way for a multi-year strategy to continue building on this inaugural event.
Gomez said he benefitted greatly from discussing the role of chaplain as staff officer and looks forward to future events that build upon this very important foundation.
Manneh agreed that the event had been beneficial. “We look forward to future collaboration and the growth of a very fruitful relationship between our two chaplaincies,” he said.