(JollofNews) – Gambians from all religious backgrounds are paying tributes to the Bishop of the Gambia, Rt. Rev. Dr. Solomon Tilewa Ethelbert Willie Johnson.
Johnson, 59, who was Primate and Archbishop of the Church of the Province of West Africa (Anglican Communion), died on Tuesday in Banjul from a suspected heart attack.
Born on 27 February 1954, Bishop Johnson as he was fondly called was educated at the Gambia High School before proceeding to the Anglican Church at Trinity College, Umuahia Abia State, Nigeria, where he graduated with a Diploma in Theology in 1980.
Two years later, he enrolled at the University of Durham, UK, where he graduated in 1985 with a BA (Hons) in Theology. He also attended the Graduate Theological Foundation in Indiana, USA, where he graduated in 2000 with a Doctor of Ministry.
Bishop Johnson was ordained a deacon in 1979 and a priest in 1980. He served at the Church of the African Martyrs in Farafenni, Lower Region, and at St Mary’s Cathedral.
He was the first Gambian to be appointed Bishop of the Gambia (including Cape Verde and Senegal) in 1990.
Bishop Johnson also held several positions (both religious and secular) in the Gambia and the wider Christian community.
He was the chairperson of the Christian Council of the Gambia which is responsible for the coordination of all Christian activities and institutions in the Gambia.
He was the first chairman of the Gambia’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) from 1997 to 2000.
Paying tribute to the Bishop, Mai Ahmad Fatty, leader of the opposition Gambia Moral Congress party (GMC), described him as an illustrious son of The Gambia and an upright man who devoted his life to the service of God and humanity.
“He was a man of great wisdom, a role model, and a beacon of hope for the Anglican community in Africa. Most of all, he was a humble man whose life in itself was a veritable sermon,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
Another Facebook user, Pata PJ, wrote: “Dr. Solomon Tilewa Johnson was a decent, respectable man in both the Christian and Muslim community. In a predominately Muslim country, the Bishop is revered and celebrated as a man of high moral standing. His services to the Church and the Gambia shall forever be treasured.
Tombong Saidy, a former director-general of the Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS) wrote: “It’s a sad day for all Gambians regardless of age, sex or religion for we have lost a great son, Bishop Tilewa Johnson. Not only did he serve the Christian community, but he also served all Gambians and contributed greatly in the social, economic and political development of this country. We should all pray for him. May his soul rest in peace.”
Fatou Camara, a former State House director of Press and Public Relations, also paid tribute to the late Bishop describing him as a friendly and warm person.
Also paying tribute to Bishop Johnson, Nanama Keita, a former Gambian sports journalist wrote: “The Anglican Church in Banjul has lost its shepherd, and the Gambia has lost one of its most upright religious leaders. S Tilewa Johnson was a man of God, and he was also a man of the people.”