by J M Rosenthal in The Gambia
One of the most dramatic moments in Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams' pastoral visit to the Anglicans in West Africa came on Tuesday as he visited a refugee centre run by the local diocese. Archbishop Williams showed signs of being deeply moved at the Centre. He said, 'May your experience as refugees be a thing of the past.' He then said, 'I promise these concerns will not be forgotten.' Archbishop Rowan praised the diocese for 'being at the forefront of the work'. He then said that he hoped the centre would be 'a challenge and reproach' for concerned people around the Communion.
A young man, 27, from Sierra Leone pleaded with Archbishop Rowan to use his 'high office' to plead the cause of displaced persons. But when Judah, aged 8, eloquently addressed the Archbishop's party, women - some carrying babies - began crying and sobbing as the young child told of her fellow Liberians that had been victims of 'rape, torture and death'.
Later in the morning Archbishop Williams and Mrs Williams, along with the Archbishop of the Province, the Most Revd Robert Okine, were received by the President and many Government officials. The President paid tribute to the work of the Anglican Church in The Gambia with special reference to the diocesan bishop, the Rt Revd Dr S Tilewa Johnson.
The Archbishop received a warm and high profile greeting at his arrival on Monday night in Sierra Leone . Earlier on Monday, in Freetown , a busy programme included Mrs Jane Williams greeting over 100 Mothers' Union members at St George's Cathedral, while at the same time Archbishop Rowan answered questions from clergy and other lay leaders from the diocese, as well as from the diocese of Bo.
In his sermon on Sunday night, during a Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit with 12 hymns and 5 Anglican chant psalms, the Archbishop spoke of the work of the Holy Spirit and its power in helping us, in all our diversity and uniqueness, 'to see the Christ in each other'.
One of the other most dramatic moments during the Pastoral visit came when the delegation entered Elmina Castle in Cape Coast and were immediately confronted with a building that was used as a prison, where slaves were kept before being sent off to other parts of the world. The Archbishop called the perpetrators of slavery 'sick' and spoke of 'the shame of those in Europe ' who were instruments of this terror.
The visit continues with the dedication of a new church in Serrekunda and tomorrow with an Interfaith meeting at Bishopscourt.
At the visit with the President of The Gambia it was emphasised by His Excellency that this was 'a secular state' where those of different religious persuasions lived with a high level of 'tolerant and respect for each other'. Archbishop Williams called the Interfaith co-operation level here 'a worth-while model'.