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Senegal's President Apologizes for Insult to Christians


Senegal's Muslim President Abdoulaye Wade has apologized for a controversial remark about Christianity that prompted street protests in Dakar.

The president's son issued the statement of apology. Karim Wade, who is a government official, Minister of State for International Cooperation, Land Use, Air Transport and Infrastructure, said the president cares about all of Senegal's religious communities, including Christians.

Mr. Wade's offending comment earlier this week appeared to be an attempt to deflect criticism by Muslim religious leaders and others over a massive monument he commissioned. The president argued that no one calls out (disparages) Christians for, in his words, "praying to someone who is not God."

Several hundred Senegalese Christians, a small but influential minority in the West African nation, took to the streets Wednesday and clashed with security forces in the capital.

The leader of Senegal's Roman Catholic community, Cardinal Théodore-Adrien Sarr, told VOA French-to-Africa service the president's conduct was "scandalous and intolerable," and said he owes his nation a public apology.

The cleric said Mr. Wade had questioned the religious beliefs of his fellow Senegalese citizens and subjected them to ridicule.

The project that sparked the current dispute - Mr. Wade's "Monument of the African Renaissance" - stands on a 100-meter-high hill in Dakar. It features a 50-meter-tall bronze statue (four meters taller than the well-known landmark in New York harbor, the Statue of Liberty) depicting a man, woman and child rising out of a volcano.

President Wade says it represents the cultural heritage of Africa. Some of Senegal's Muslim clerics have criticized the design as un-Islamic, because it offers human forms as objects of worship. Others have challenged the president's reported claim to 35 percent of any revenue from tourists visiting the monument, on the grounds that Mr. Wade owns "intellectual rights" to the monument.

Stylistically, some have suggested the monument resembles the larger-than-life works seen decades ago in the former Soviet Union and other communist-bloc countries. A team of bronze artists imported from North Korea worked on the Dakar monument.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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