Guinea Bissau: Muslim leaders call for “a good solution” to child begging

The leaders of Guinea-Bissau’s Muslim community on Thursday called on the country’s president to find a “good solution” to the issue of child begging, a practice that Umaro Sissoco Embaló has banned.
In a joint press conference, the president of the National Union of Imams of Guinea-Bissau, Suleimane Embaló, and the leader of the Association of Koranic Parents and Teachers, Mussá Kebe, said they will respect the order of the Head of State, but also asked Sissoco Embaló to help them find “a good solution” to the problem.
Last Monday, the Minister of Women, Family and Social Solidarity, Conceição Évora, announced that as of March 27 the order given by the Guinean President will come into force.
Umaro Sissoco Embaló ordered the Interior Minister, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, Soares Sambu, to arrest the father or Koranic master (teacher of the Koran) of any child caught in the street begging.
Hundreds of children roam the streets of Bissau and neighboring capitals begging as they leave their homes to learn the Koran. Since the pronouncement of the order by the Guinean President, several Koranic masters have been appealing to the Head of State to understand their plight to support the children who are sent to ‘Daras’ (traditional Koranic schools).
The president of the Association of Koranic Parents and Teachers of Guinea-Bissau, Mussá Kebe, said that no ‘Dara’ owner intends to defy the order of the President, but he also appealed for a “good solution” to be found.
“The ‘Daras’ are peace-building centers because they teach religion in a modern way. We don’t want extremism in our land, so we are working with the children. We appeal to the state to dialogue with us. We don’t want to politicize this issue,” noted Mussá Kebe. This religious leader said he had given guidance to his associates to respect the order issued by the authorities, but regretted that it would be “very ugly to see that a Koranic master was arrested” in Guinea-Bissau “because he was teaching children,” he noted.
“One thing we can guarantee: we will not stop teaching our children because that would be the end of our religion in Guinea-Bissau,” Mussá Kebe stressed. The Islamic leader pointed out that “since always” his organization “has called for taking into account the complexity of the issue of children” in the process of learning the Koran.
Mussá Kebe also said that the State should apply the laws it deems necessary to organize the Guinean society, but exhorted on the need for nothing to be imposed on the religious “that is not in the Constitution”. The president of the National Union of Imams of Guinea-Bissau, Suleimane Baldé, also emphasized that “it is not the intention of the religious to challenge the State”, but only to appeal to the President of the Republic to find “a good solution to the problem of the Talibé child”.
Talibé is the name given to a child in the process of learning the Koran, under the guardianship of a master. “We don’t want to challenge, but we want to ask the President to find a solution to this issue of the ‘Daras’ which are not places to tire children, but places to prepare them for life,” argued the leader of the Imams of Guinea-Bissau.

About Geraldine Boechat 2331 Articles
Senior Editor for Medafrica Times and former journalist for Swiss National Television. former NGO team leader in Burundi and Somalia