A communication in response to the new Liberia National Examinations timetable; a request to the Minister of Education, Honorable Ansu D. Sonii

Written by Cheadol H. Sidibey

Let me begin by expressing my dissatisfaction with the Ministry of Education’s revised dates, particularly the first day of the 6th Grade National Examination, July 20, 2021, which is observed as “Abraham’s Day” or “Eid Al-adha” by Muslim brothers and sisters.

It is important to start my write-up with the revised constitution of 1985 which declares Liberia as a secular nation. Article 14 of the Liberian constitution establishes the separation of religion and state and states that all people have the right to free thought, conscience, and religion. It states that no one’s exercise of these rights shall be hampered except where required by law to protect public safety, order, health, morals, or the rights of others. It guarantees equal legal protection and forbids political parties from barring citizens from membership on the basis of their religious beliefs. It also states that no religious group should be given special treatment or preferences, and that the country should not establish a state religion.

In addition to the foregoing, it is my pleasure to refer to the Merriam Webster dictionary definition of secular state. It defined a secular state as a state with a secularism concept, in which a state claims to be officially neutral in religious matters, supporting neither religion nor irreligion.

Hon. Sonii, I’m sure you’re aware of the references mentioned above, but you chose to remain reticent, blinkered, and uncommunicative by downplaying these critical issues and declaring July 20, 2021, “Abraham’s Day,” as a day of National Examination for six graders. This is both sad and witty. There hasn’t been a single day since 1847 when Christian brothers and sisters have been subjected to such.

Muslims in Liberia have the same equal rights as Christians, and I believe they should have the same opportunities. In all fairness, the Muslim communities have not received justice.

Liberia has over ten holidays, three of which are designated for the Christian denomination, but not a single one is designated for Muslims, despite the fact that Islam is another religion in Liberia.

According to what we have observed, Christianity is the de facto religion in Liberia. It appears that religious rights for Liberian Muslims exist only in writing and not in practice.

When Christmas or any Christian holiday approaches in Liberia, all schools, including Muslim schools, are required to close and all Muslims are required to sit at their various homes to observe that day, not to mention writing national examinations.

Because Muslims are peaceful people, they have observed Christian holidays without hesitation since 1847. They are peaceful Liberians who have made significant contributions to the country’s growth and development. If Liberia is to progress, there must be peace, togetherness, equality, and unity between the two groups, because divided we fall, but united we stand, and it is not good for one religion to be given preferential treatment over others.

Liberians must respect each other’s religions in the same way that our neighboring sister country (Sierra Leone) does.

Sierra Leone is a Muslim-dominated country with fewer Christians accounting for 25% of the population, but when it is Christmas or any Christian holiday in Sierra Leone, all citizens of that country can stay at their various homes to observe that holiday, and even non-Muslim schools can close when a Christian holiday arrives. Honorable Minister, this communication is not specifically about Muslim holidays in Liberia because I am aware that you do not have the authority to grant such, but I see it as an injustice and total discrimination on your part as Minister of Education to have declared the day of Eid Al-adha or Abraham’s Day as a day for writing national examinations. In another sense, you are telling our Muslim students to forego celebrating Abraham’s Day in order to take the national exam.

To conclude, we must put on our garments of unity and respect one another’s religion in order for our peaceful land to remain religiously stable.

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