We are continuing our week of focusing on religion in Senegal with a trip to one of the Catholic centers. Joal and Fadiouth are two towns that are connected by a foot bridge. Joal is the location of the parental home of Leopold Senghor, the first president of independent Senegal. Senghor was a Catholic which is, itself, a stunning thing in a country that is overwhelmingly Muslim. He is largely respected for having helped lay much of the constitutional and structural framework that have supported a largely peaceful and tolerant society over the years since. His thinking was also central to developing the Negritude movement as the philosophical basis for unity in African pride. The house where he grew up is a small museum and the guide there helped us to understand Senghor and his family.
We walked across the bridge to Fadiouth, also known as Shell Island. This is a small island built entirely on shells deposited there naturally and added to by many centuries of shellfish harvesting from the tidal flats and mangroves that surround it. Most of the inhabitants are Catholic but here, too, there are stories of mutual support. When the local mosque collapsed, it was the Catholic neighbors that joined together to build another. And when a Catholic church was destroyed by a natural disaster, the Muslim neighbors joined in to help rebuild it. We were able to visit a beautiful Catholic church here. A short walk over another foot bridge took us to the old cemetery on another shell atoll. This is the only cemetery in Senegal (we are told) that is for both Christians and Muslims. You can see in the pictures that Christian graves are marked with crosses and Muslim graves are marked with small metal signs.
Then back across the bridge for a pleasant lunch. On the way back to Thiés we stopped at a Baptist retreat where we could spend a couple of hours playing on the beach. A lovely way to end the day!