Christian News from Scotland

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Couple Arrested for Sedition

Last Saturday a British couple were arrested at their home in the African bush and taken to jail in Banjul, capital of The Gambia in West Africa.
David Fulton comes from Troon in Ayrshire while his wife Fiona originates from Torquay in the south of England. They have two teenage children, who presently live with friends in Exeter, and an infant adopted daughter who is with them in The Gambia.

A number of years ago, David and Fiona took a holiday on the quiet shores of The Gambia – a holiday which subsequently changed their lives.

At that time David ran a vehicle repair service in Torquay and had a comfortable lifestyle. In the Gambia they had visited friends, met new people and observed people in need.

When they returned from their holiday, Fiona had a sense that God might be calling them to return to The Gambia to serve the needy people they had met, but the busyness of life soon pushed thoughts of Africa out of their minds. Three years later, it was David who began thinking of the people they had seen in Africa. Feeling God had something new for him to do, he took some time to pray about his future and the direction of his life. The Gambia came to his mind and tears to his eyes. David realised he was crying for the people of The Gambia.

Within a year, the couple sold their home and made arrangements to relocate the family to a small village in The Gambia.

With a background in prison ministry, David soon began to lay the foundation for the development of a Prison Fellowship ministry, which eventually became a chartered member of PFI.

Prison ministry was not easy. David‘s initial access to the prison was cut off when someone lodged a complaint against him on account of his Christian beliefs and influence. He was subsequently arrested and banned from the prison system.

However, through David‘s positive relationship with government officials, he was offered the opportunity of serving as a chaplain to the Gambian military, a position that allowed him to have full access to all of the prisons.

Neither military service nor prison were new to David. As a young man he had served in the British army where he rose to the rank of major. But when he was in his thirties he became involved in armed robberies or security vans.

The law eventually caught up with him, and while in prison he visited the prison chapel for solace. At first he ended up swearing at the chaplain. But several days later he returned to the chapel and listened as the same chaplain speaking about King David‘s crime. “David had a repentant heart and the Lord forgave him,” the chaplain said - looking directly at prisoner David Fulton. Returning to his cell that night he couldn‘t sleep and the following morning he sought the chaplain‘s counsel where he got down onto my knees and asked the Lord into his heart.

In Gambia, Fiona is Chaplain to the airport and also visits women at home and in hospital.
David has been training a group of Gambian soldiers to become chaplains. The plan is that once they complete their training, every unit of the Gambian army will have its own chaplain under David as head chaplain. He also continues to provide leadership to Prison Fellowship in The Gambia with both David and Fiona personally visiting inmates in each of the prisons in the country and also organising services and Bible Studies within the prisons.

They and other Prison Fellowship workers also follow up on the needs of remand prisoners, appeal prisoners, and ex-prisoners. Fiona leads a group of volunteers in the women‘s prison, who teach the female inmates basic needlecraft and sewing skills. They also pray with the women and offer them Bibles. And Prison Fellowship in The Gambia is currently in the process of developing a community-based support centre to provide much needed temporary housing and assistance for prisoners who are being released and need help.

On Saturday the couple were arrested at their home and taken to separate location in Banjul. On Thursday they appeared in court, charged with Sedition – or undermining the authority of the government. Their case has been held over with a further hearing planned for 15th December.

The charges against them do not appear to relate to their work in The Gambia, but rather to the content of letters they write to family and supporters.

The couple have been offered bail, but so far have been unable to meet the strict conditions, which are understood to require payment of £125,000 together with providing four Gambian property owners willing to vouch for them.

David Fulton is being held outside Banjul in a high-security prison known as Mile Two, a tough colonial jail built during the days of the British Empire. Fiona is being held with their two-year-old adopted daughter Elizabeth, at a police station in the capital.

Fiona is reported as being treated well by police, who have run errands to buy nappies. But the treatment of David is not so certain.

As a chaplain, part of David’s job is to provide comfort to all sorts of people, people high up and people low down – and people who have perhaps fallen out of favour.

The Gambia is ruled by President Yahya Jammeh, an army officer who seized power in 1994. His record on human rights and civil freedoms is questionable. Prisoners on similar charges to Mr Fulton have reportedly been poisoned while in jails. And David is reported as not eating.

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