President of Sierra Leone Muslim Missionaries Union (SLMMU) and founder of Voice of Islam Radio (102.5fm), Sheikh M.A. Zaki Kallon has on Saturday 25th June, 2016 expressed that the country’s current Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Honourable Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden has effectively allayed prior concerns of Muslim leaders across the country. The words of Sheikh Kallon were greeted with loud endorsement from the hall full of Imams from all 149 chiefdoms in Sierra Leone, all the 4 regional Imams and the top leadership of virtually all Muslim leadership groups in Sierra Leone. The occasion was at the Ramadan Dawah Conference 2016 organised by Sierra Leone’s United Council of Imams, the Supreme Islamic Council and Sierra Leone Muslim Missionaries Union in consonance with UK-Link at the Miatta Conference Hall in Freetown.
The theme of the conference was: “Education and Faith- The Keys to Success.”
It was whilst giving his Vote of Thanks at the end of a highly successful event that Sheikh Kallon spoke what turned out to be the unanimous position emerging out of the leaders of the Islamic faith in Sierra Leone. This is that the choice of a relatively young Christian woman to superintend religious affairs in Sierra Leone, was a well-thought out decision by His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma.
Sheikh Zaki Kallon confessed that when the appointment of a Christian woman to lead the ministry responsible for religious affairs, was first announced, “a lot of concerns were murmured and passed around to us Muslims by certain people” and continued that “we Muslims were left very concerned and afraid for the fate of Islam in Sierra Leone”.
“We asked of one another, this question – ‘where will Islam now stand in this country’?” he revealed.
However, he now confirmed, with his face beaming with huge smiles as he spoke, that they have been observing how the Minister has been carrying herself since her appointment and furthermore, going by her Statement and actions right there at Miatta Conference Center, they the Muslim leaders were now of the strongest conviction that the choice of Hon. Dr. Sylvia Blyden to head that particular ministry, was one of the best ever made by His Excellency the President.
Sheikh Zaki Kallon said because of the resilient and outstanding leadership the minister has displayed so far, they are of the strong confidence that Sierra Leone’s religious tolerance under the leadership of President Koroma is now cemented forever as one of his best legacies.
The above spoken words of Sheikh M.A. Zaki Kallon were not only endorsed by the room full of renowned Muslim clerics but further greeted with sounds of “Allahu Akbar!” which in Arabic, means “God is great”.
|Hon. Sylvia Blyden collects a copy of Holy Koran from a smiling Sheikh Zaki Kallon.|
|Alhaji Y. D. Kamara, the President of United Council of Imams with Hon. Sylvia Blyden.|
|The great great granddaughter of Dr. Edward Blyden being honoured by her Muslim compatriots.|
Earlier, Hon. Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, who was the guest of honour at the Muslim conference, carefully explained her historical link with Muslims in Sierra Leone. She said when she was warmly embraced by Muslims of Foulah Town on her first visit there as a Cabinet Minister, many wondered as to how Muslims were so passionately embracing a Christian like herself.
She then explained that her great-great grand father, Dr. Edward Wilmot Blyden was the founder and first Director of Mohammedan Education in Sierra Leone. She furthered “though my great-great grandfather was born and raised as a Christian and even became a Christian preacher, he found out that there is more of an affinity between the Muslim faith and the typical African. Therefore, he decided to setup the Mohammedan Education as a means of ensuring Western Christian education was to co-exist with Muslim schooling in the Holy Koran.”
|Hon. Minister Blyden with the British Muslim Sheikh share a light moment.|
She said her ancestor served Muslims so sincerely that until this day, his name is highly revered in Muslim circles like at Foulah Town where he built the famous mosque and other Muslim educational institutions like Amaraia School. She said from 1900 until he died in 1912, Dr. Edward Wilmot Blyden actively directed and supervised the promotion of Islamic education all over Sierra Leone.
Hon. Blyden assured that though she was herself a Christian, but just like her famous ancestor, she recognized the importance of Islam and she had fullest possible respect for Muslims and the teachings of Prophet Mohammed.
|Cross section of the Hall jam packed with Imams from all over chiefdoms of Sierra Leone.|
Continuing her address, Hon. Dr. Sylvia Blyden urged Muslim leaders present to continue to emulate the teachings of charity and tolerance preached by Prophet Mohammed in the Holy Koran. She said tolerance and charity are key ingredients for Peace to prevail.
Hon. Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden informed that Sierra Leone has recently been internationally recognised as the most peaceful nation in West Africa. She said, in achieving this, every honest person will give lots of credit to President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma’s outstanding religious and political tolerance as having played a major role.
|Proprietors of a proposed Islamic University presented their brochures to Hon. Dr. Blyden at the event.|
Hon. Blyden assured the visitors from the United Kingdom that President Koroma’s charitable attributes is also responsible for a lot of the peace that the country is today enjoying.
She strongly affirmed that she was determined to continue to lead the ministry responsible for religious affairs in exactly the way that His Excellency the President wants; which was with a firm emphasis on religious tolerance and respect for all faiths.
|Sheikh Yazid and Sheikh Kallay pose with Dr. Blyden alongside several young female Arabic scholars.|
Whilst delivering his message, United Kingdom based guest lecturer, Shaykh Yusuf Shabbir had called for charity and tolerance. He said a Nation can only achieve what it wants if its citizens are ready to emulate change for the better. Also, he called for a collaborative approach in the strides to achieve what Sierra Leone wants as a Nation. He urged Sierra Leoneans to have a charitable heart. He referenced that good advice, supporting the disable or oppressed are all acts of charity. He said even a smile given to another person will lighten that person’s heart so even smiles were acts of charity.
The event ended on a very high note which saw the Honourable Minister Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden gifted with a specially bound copy of the Holy Koran. Upon receiving the Koran, Hon. Blyden lifted it up high to loud cheers of the room full of Muslims.
|Religious Tolerant Hon. Minister Sylvia Blyden raises Holy Koran high up to loud applause of Muslims.|
The UK-Link Ramadan Conference Dawah Conference 2016 which opened formally that day, will now continue throughout this Holy Month. The other events will take place at the Freetown Central Mosque, the Ghadaffi Mosque; the Goderich campus of MMCE&T College; Bo City, Southern Region; Kenema City, Eastern Region; and will finally close at Makeni City, Northern Region. It was the brainchild of former Minister of Lands Musa Tarawally in consonance with Supreme Islamic Council, United Council of Imams and Sierra Leone Muslim Missionaries Union. The programme was excellently covered live by the Voice of Islam radio.