Culture & Traditions Religion Religious
Christianity arrived in the Gambia with Portuguese sailors in
1456 when they sailed upriver and landed on James Island.
There are now over 200,000 Christians of various denominations
including Roman Catholics, various protestant denominations including
Methodists, Anglicans, Jehovah's Witnesses, Baptists, Seventh-Day
Adventists and others.
Despite earlier predictions that the community would eventually
be swamped by the Muslims majority their total numbers have in
fact grown. This has been helped by the arrival of the
evangelical movements from other countries including West Africa.
They have spurred some people with vigorous gospel speeches, local
assistance, aid and have built a number of places of worship and
who continue to get some willing converts.
Compared to the 19th and first half of the 20th century the faith
is less about converting people than it is about re-enforcing
the faith, supporting charity work in villages, education and
giving skills assistance to help youth schemes. Today there is
a network of countrywide churches with the most magnificent standing
on Banjul's Daniel Goddard St. (formerly Hagan Street) known locally
as "Cathedral". There are 42,500 Catholics who make
up 2.4% of the population with a total of 24 priests and just
over over 55 parishes.
work actively with Muslim communities
all over the country on various projects and even accept them
in their schools such as St. Augustine's High. There is also the
Gambian Christian Council which is composed of various religions
and denominations who discuss matters of common interest.
In the early 19th century the religion got a boost when freed
slaves who were converts came
to settle in Gambia after the creation of Bathurst on St. Mary's
Island. In 1849 a Catholic mission was established in the
settlement however, Catholicism floundered for the next half a
century until 1905 when the Irish father (Giovanni) John Meehan
arrived on the scene. In 1931 he created the Vicariate Apostolic
of Senegambia and separated
it from Dakar. In 1950 the Catholic population was just over 3,000.
1951 saw the Vicariate elevated to the Prefecture Apostolic of
Bathurst in Gambia and in 1957 to The Diocese of Bathurst.
The Methodist Church is one of the earliest churches in
Africa and has a history going back to 1821 when John Baker and
John Morgan first arrived at Tendaba where they found a frosty
reception. The later moved down to Banjul to found Bathurst's
first high school for boys. In 1935 the Wesley Church was build
in Macoumba Jallow St. Later, chapels and churches appeared in
Serrekunda, Bakau, Georgetown and other areas of the Kombo St.
Mary District as well as up-river districts.
The Church of England built the Anglican Cathedral of St.
Mary in 1901 and also proceeded to build schools and other places
of worship. See also Aku people.