SPEECH DELIVERED BY REV. FR. PETER LOPEZ, DIECTOR OF GAMBIA PASTORAL INSTITUE (GPI) AT THE FORMAL OPENING CEREMONY OF RADIO VERITAS, ON THE 20TH OF JANUARY, 2021, AT THE GPI PREMISES
His Lordship Bishop, Most Rev Dr. Gabriel Mendy, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Banjul, The Vicar-General of the Catholic Diocese of Banjul, Very Revered Fr. Anthony Sonko, My brother-Priests, the Religious, Honourable minister James F. Gomez, Distinguished guests, Staff of The Gambia Pastoral Institute, my brothers and sisters-in-Christ, Ladies and gentlemen; you are all welcome to this very significant event.
My speech here today is about our epoch-making journey so far at GPI, as this occasion provides us a time for reflection and celebration. Indeed and in truth, today, 20th January, 2021, marks a milestone in the Catholic Diocese of Banjul as well as the Gambian Christian community as a whole, as we mark the official opening of our first electronic media channel, Radio Veritas, to boost our evangelization efforts. It is also significant landmark in the history of the Diocese of Banjul in general and the GPI in particular, as it is exactly 45 years since this great institution was founded and launched in support of the human, pastoral and spiritual growth of the local church.
The Gambia Pastoral Institute is a non-profit institute which facilitates growth in awareness of our calling as a Church, as well as a means to move beyond our immediate catholic community to the mission of an ecumenism aimed at a universal Christian unity and inter-faith relationship-building, while always remaining open to where the Holy Spirit is leading us. Radio Veritas, which we are formally launching today, is thus founded as a means to further this noble mission and mandate of GPI.
As we celebrate this milestone, I want to thank God for the strength, courage and guidance throughout my leadership of GPI thus far, as it has not been an easy one. As we continue to thank God, I also want to thank those who have remained instrumental to the achievement of the grand ambition of GPI and the ultimate establishment of Radio Veritas. Therefore, as we celebrate and continue to thank God, I want to remember the souls of Fr. Edward Grimes who started the GPI as the first Director who even after his departure from The Gambia remained supportive to the institute. I would also like to remember John Paul Nenu Gomez the carpenter, builder, welder and painter who refurbished the beautiful studio that you will see very soon but unfortunately he did not live to see today. He died suddenly in October 2020. I would also like to remember the soul of Uncle George Gomez who was very instrumental in making sure that we have our own radio station and took on several occasions to see the Minister for Communications. He was the Vice-Chairman of the Diocesan Communications Commission until his demise. These men until their deaths were instrumental to the growth and development of GPI and Radio Veritas. May their souls, and the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. I would also like to say a very bi thank you to Mr. Patrick Mendy the electrician who did a wonderful job in the studio.
Ladies and gentlemen, over the past years we have been dreaming of our own Christian radio and today we can heartily and happily say that God has answered our prayers. However, worthy of great recognition during this auspicious occasion is the remarkable role of our Shepherd, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Banjul, Most Rev. Dr. Gabriel Mendy CSSp, whose passion for the project has been both supportive and phenomenal; supporting us at GPI both morally and financially as we pursue the historic project of Radio Veritas, and which ultimately aided us immensely to arrive at this point of celebrating our success. In fact, the lists of people to be acknowledged in the Radio Veritas project are many; we deeply appreciate the massive efforts of the Diocesan Communications Commission who met in GPI many Friday evenings for the planning and application for a Christian radio station. Sometimes, we had to meet the Minister of Communications to push for our application approval. In fact, my dear guests, one striking issue about the establishment of Radio Veritas is that, the resources used to establish it were largely raised locally, and on this, we owe an unreserved gratitude to the Parish Pastoral Councils, Church groups, Individuals, as well as the Gambian Christians abroad who contributed in making Radio Veritas a reality in a special way. We are also grateful in a special way to Honorable James F.Gomez and Mr. Mbye Nying for their immense support in a myriad of ways during the radio project development period. I remember those days we met just to look at where to raise funds for the radio. Furthermore, we are also thanking enormously the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) through the support of Mrs. Joanna Mendy for providing all the studio equipment for the radio. I believe that all of us are aware that CRS has always been there for us for the past years; and not just for the church community alone, but the Gambian society as a whole. But, ladies and gentlemen, this story of the journey to where we are today will not be complete if I do not recognize the effort and contributions from my selfless, dynamic and dedicated TEAM of colleagues at the GPI. All of the achievements and challenges have been with their extraordinary show of cooperation and support they provide on a daily basis. The success of the Radio Veritas project reflects it and deeply proves my assertion correct. And to my TEAM, I want to say thank you to you all for being both a reliable and solid part of Radio Veritas building project from the beginning. WE ARE INDEED A FAMILY!!! . I recognize the efforts of all former directors of GPI and all those who worked at the communications department especially Brother Senan and in a very special way Fr. Sean Devereux.
My dear guests, it is important to note that, this new addition of the Radio Veritas to our existing information machinery amounts to an avenue for further empowerment of Gambian Christians, as it is an instrument that will make our collective voice stronger. As we all know, the radio is proven to be a unique and effective tool for empowering marginalized people, communities and societies alike, as well as a vital tool for national economic, social and political development. Hence, being a radio for the Christian community in The Gambia, it will be driven by the community it serves – the Catholic Diocese of Banjul in unison with the Gambia Christian Council. Principally, it will serve us by providing a mechanism for facilitating our telling our own relative stories, to share experiences, and in a media-rich world, to become active creators and contributors. Most importantly, it will speak the voice of the Christians in The Gambia, by speaking the voice of every parish, parishioners, the authority of both the local and universal church, as well as the local Christian Church establishments.
Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, the noteworthy uniqueness of Radio Veritas amongst other factors is about the vast diversity of it stakeholdership. I want to reiterate that in as much as Radio Veritas is run by the Gambia Pastoral Institute, its stakeholder does not consist only of the community of the Catholic Diocese of Banjul that established it, but, it also embraces the Christian community of The Gambia as a whole. Thus, the needs and aspirations of the Gambian Christian community will be strongly reflected in planning, implementing and incorporation of programs of the radio station.
My dear guests, as I mentioned earlier, the journey to where we are today has not been an easy one, as it was marked by extraordinary challenges that also took some extraordinary courage and leadership to carry on. Thus, the achievement that we celebrate today is rooted on our unified focus and the strength gained from the initial difficulties, and from which we learnt that challenges should be viewed from a positive angle.
Before I conclude, I want to thank all those who are not here today but who have been an extraordinary source of inspiration in our realization of the Radio Veritas ambition. My dear guests, ladies and gentlemen, I assure you that we shall keep our doors open and will be willing to assist all that may need our support, as well being open to your contributions and allied support. This is what will make us grow in strength and aid us in making an impact on the media landscape of this great nation, The Gambia.
Indeed and in truth, I salute your efforts, and I look forward to your earnest cooperation and relationships that will be marked with sustained achievements for the progress of Radio Veritas in the future. We are deeply grateful to you. I thank you all and let us celebrate this success together. LONG LIVE RADIO VERITAS!!!