Freetown, Baby!

Pastor Pratt by jc2010sl
May 27, 2011, 11:24 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags:

A couple of weeks back I received and invite from Musa to his church’s annual choir celebration. Despite not being religious – a concept as alien to Sierra Leonean as the idea of not getting dressed before you leave the house – I thought I’d go along to support his church.

The service was due to start at 10:00am, but having been advised to show up on “Salone time” we rolled up 45 minutes late (it isn’t uncommon for meetings to start one and a half hours late). Imagine our surprise to find the service well underway. Fortunately though, we hadn’t missed the main acts. In addition to the choir from the host church (a fairly low, Wesleyan, congregation), there was a visiting choir from the East End of Freetown. Each sung a medley of hymns. The first was slow and ponderous and wouldn’t have been out of place in an English church, the second was full of gusto, with finger clicking, swaying and “hallelujahs”.

This set the scene for the lesson from guest preacher; Reverend Pratt. Appropriately enough for a celebration of the choir, he took as his theme the power of music to inspire and educate. Having commended the hymns he launched into a diatribe against the Salone chart; songs about loose women, lovers, and liars. With each song or artist he name-checked there was an increasing roar of recognition from the congregation (especially our friends from the East End). Scowling and warming to his message, the pastor roared at the congregation; “Dis na sexual biznes, dis na wickedness!”

Alongside the predictably conservative injunction was an uplifting message. People should be happy being who they are. “If you’re fat, you’re fat, if you’re thin, you’re thin. Don’t try to be like anyone else.” And gesturing towards us: “let the white people be white, you are black, and should be proud of it. Just imagine it; we are now preaching the gospel to them!” He certainly put us in our place.

God bless Islam by jc2010sl
March 24, 2010, 1:03 pm
Filed under: society | Tags: , ,

It’s common to see vehicles in Freetown adorned with various messages and injunctions. Many of them are religious in nature, and you’ll commonly see signs like “Believe in God”, “Trust in Allah”, or “God will provide”. I saw one yesterday though, that stuck me as slightly odd:

I thought that “God” was Christian, and that Islam would be blessed by “Allah”.

I guess this blurring of religious lines symbolises in some way the incredible religious tolerance in Salone. It’s often said that Salone is a model of peaceful co-existence, something backed up by a Gallup survey, for those of you with pointy-headed inclinations.

I was intrigued as to why this was the case, and have been asking the drivers and my Salone colleagues why this is the case. Intermarriage between religions is often mentioned. The last president, Ahmed Kabbah – no prizes for guessing his faith – was married to a devout catholic.
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