Londoners celebrate 49th Independence in Olympic Borough
Sierra Leoneans based in the London Borough of Newham, United Kingdom, came together on Tuesday 27th April, 2010 to reflect and celebrate forty-nine years of Independence from Great Britain. The London Borough of Newham is home to diverse communities in London and will be hosting the forthcoming 2012 Olympics in Stratford, East London.
The Independence celebration programme which commenced with Muslim and Christian prayers was organised by the Sierra Leone-British Friendship Group which aims to promote strong historical links between UK and Sierra Leone.
In his opening Muslim prayers, Mr Fadiru Koroma, informed the audience that in Sierra Leone we solicit the presence of God before starting any event and asked everyone to join in reciting the â€˜Al Fatihaâ€™. Mama John , who is over 80 years old asked everyone to join in singing a Krio chorus- â€˜tell papa God tenkiâ€™ and prayed for the country in Krio, and said â€˜this day means a lot to me, thatâ€™s why I came as soon as I heard that my country people were doing somethingâ€™. In welcoming everyone at the event, Mrs Fatmata Lahai expressed delight that people had made time to come despite their busy schedule, which is a pointer that Sierra Leoneans are patriotic wherever they find themselves.
Highlights of the events included a flag raising ceremony at the Newham Town Hall, where Sierra Leoneans started converging at 11 am for the raising ceremony of the Green, White and Blue Sierra Leone flag. It was an impressive occasion observed by onlookers when the National Anthem was sung with great passion. This happened to be the first time the Sierra Leone Community celebrated independence in Newham. It was a spectacular event as Sierra Leoneans felt very happy coming together with their compatriots to celebrate a National event. The flag raising ceremony was followed by a lunch time session at a local venue offered by Conflict & Change, (a peace building organisation) based in London. A member of the organising Committee; Sarjoh Aziz Kamara, made an interesting presentation, beginning with the history of Sierra Leone, explaining most symbolic events as well as symbols of that country (such as national flag and coat of arms), particularly for the benefit ofÂ other nationals Â that graced the occasion. He further acknowledged the support of the British Government in ending the 11 year civil war, and their current assistance in providing funds for a National Health programme to be launched in Sierra Leone. â€œItâ€™s a wonderful ceremony that I would not have afforded to miss because it reminded me of so many thingsâ€ – remarked Floris Lymon, a London based Sierra Leonean.
The presentation was followed by pertinent question and answers, which helped to facilitate healthy exchanges from within the audience.â€ Itâ€™s a moment for us to not only celebrate but to reflect on what independence actually means for us as` a nation. We cannot help but to heartily thank the organisers for bringing us together and for the issues` reflected uponâ€- Observed Boi Banya.
One thing that stood out for many of the non-Sierra Leoneans that attended the event was Sierra Leoneâ€™s religious tolerance. Ros Southern, a British national had this to say â€œI was very touched and surprised to see how naturally the Sierra Leoneans all joined in the Muslim and Christian prayers at the beginning of our lunchtime meeting.Â I think we have a lot to learn from these people who live side by side and share in each others religions without any problemsâ€.
The event ended with salient contributions from British, Afro-Caribbean, Asian nationals and staff of Conflict & Change office, stating how pleased they were to Â have met with Sierra Leoneans to celebrate such an important historic day.Â They assured the gathering that they are further prepared to help Sierra Leoneans in their own diverse ways to consolidate their peace building efforts. Lunch provided by the Sierra Leonean organisers was served at the end of the event which offered an opportunity of better acquaintances amongst Sierra Leoneans and their invited friends that turned up to grace the occasion. Attendees at the event expressed an interest to be involved in celebrating the Golden Jubilee Independence Anniversary when Sierra Leone will be 50. Unmesh Desai, councillor responsible for external relations encouraged Sierra Leoneans to become active in their community, and to embark on activities that will promote a cohesive community, especially as a nation that has experienced civil conflict.By: Matthew Marke, UK
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