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Christians in Gambia

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Cathederal at Daniel Goddard StreetChristianity 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.

Banjul CathederalDespite earlier predictions that the community would eventually be swamped by the Muslim majority their total numbers have in fact grown. This has been helped by the arrival of the new 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.

CrossCompared 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.

Christians 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.
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