Each year at Christmas, we celebrate a very profound gift: the birth of a child who dedicated his life to a message of charity, peace, love, and redemption. Every Christmas, we remind ourselves – whether we are poor or rich, young or old, strong or weak, sick or healthy – that we all share the values of kindness, generosity, and compassion. Christmas gives us an opportunity to perform a duty and a responsibility; a duty to love another and a responsibility to reach out to others in need. In doing so, our hearts are softened, families are united, friends are remembered, and enemies are forgiven. We touch something basic and good in the human spirit.
In August this year, our country witnessed one of the worst human tragedies. Devastating mudslides and flooding took the lives of over a thousand of our compatriots and left thousands homeless. Women and children who are the most vulnerable were worst affected. Sadly, those who lost their lives would have been looking forward to this Christmas and those rendered homeless would have hoped to spend this festive season in the comfort of their homes. But death and destruction replaced the hope and optimism of the victims.
However, in the face of the tragedy, we also showed the world what is great and powerful about ourselves: that we are resilient people filled with compassion and solidarity. As we celebrate the festive season, let us not forget that many of these victims are still suffering from the trauma of losing loved ones, the problem of decent housing, lack of sustenance for families and livelihood opportunities and the uncertain future of Orphaned Children. Extending our kindness to these victims will not make the horrible memories of the flooding go away, but it will comfort them that they are not alone.
Let us also not forget that during this festive season there are many of our compatriots across our country suffering from hardships, neglect, ill-health, homelessness, joblessness, broken marriages, difficulties in their businesses, challenges in their employment, mental illness, abuse and exploitation of street children, and coping with divisions in their families. Let us remember them in our prayers, offer kind words to those we can reach and touch their lives with our generosity. There is nothing too small you can do and there is nothing too large you cannot do to put a smile on the face of a compatriot encumbered by predicament.
As we look forward to the new year, on the 7th March 2018, voters will decide on the most important electoral decisions of our generation in the Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Council Elections. Let us make these elections a contest of ideas, policies, addressing our critical development challenges and above all what is best for our country. Irrespective of our political parties, the coming elections give us an opportunity as citizens to choose hope over fear, peace over violence, love over hatred, unity over division, tolerance over bigotry and truth over falsehood. We all have a shared conviction in the potential and greatness of the land that we love. This must always unite us.
Therefore, as we enter the new year, I am very hopeful. I am hopeful that we will conduct our political debates with sincerity and respect for one another. I am hopeful that we will have non-violent, free, fair, transparent and credible elections. I am hopeful that we will have a peaceful democratic transition from one government to another. I am hopeful that the next government will address the critical development challenges and urgent needs of all citizens. I am hopeful that whoever is elected as the next President will have the integrity of purpose; the upright mind; the virtue of selflessness; the love of country and people; the commitment to fulfill promises and the courage to do what is right in the interest of our country and people.
On behalf of my wife, Fatima and the general membership of the Sierra Leone People’s Party, I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a new year of opportunity, hope, and unity as we all look forward to peaceful elections in March 2018.
Brig. (Rtd.) Julius Maada Bio
Presidential Candidate of the SLPP for the 2018 Elections