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Opinions of Thursday, 27 May 2021

Columnist: Sandow A. Seidu

An open letter to the Christian Council of Ghana, Ghana Catholic Bishop Conference

Christian Council of Ghana Head Office Christian Council of Ghana Head Office

I write this letter on behalf of all peace loving individuals, institutions, humanitarians and humanists including the grief-stricken in the country and beyond who may have either been taken at bay or lost certain worldly desires in their struggle to come to terms with the open support and endorsement of bigotry by your institutions of high repute (the CCG and GCBC) against Islam and Muslims.

It was obviously a regrettable endorsement of religious discrimination which has the potential to create dissension, sow seeds of discord, spread venoms of blasphemy and interfaith conflict between Christians and Muslims in the country and therefore needs a rethink.

Like any sincere peace advocate, I am deeply saddened and embarrassed at the clear endorsement of religious discrimination against adherents of a religion that you claim to have lived with in peace and harmony. Is this the kind of tolerance that has been the envy of many around the world and thus needs to be consolidated? Can this behaviour enable us to achieve the real goal of our existence as peace-loving people?

History is littered with examples of conflicts precipitated by religious intolerance that we must take serious lessons. Ghana is not ready to accommodate any incident leading to religious conflict, because the humanity of some states within the sub region and beyond has already taken the brunt, but the entire world is affected. Some states are still trying to puzzle out how they ever came to such a situation.

The support for the misconduct of the Wesley Girls Headmistress and the Methodists Church against Bushira Ismael was a clear manifestation of the fact that, the sense of tolerance, peace, mutual trust and respect between adherents of the two major religions in the country is indeed overshadowed by the primacy of bigotry and therefore needs to be redefined.

You must pick the gauntlet, to protect the peace and interfaith harmony that existed between Christians and Muslims in our secular peaceful country.
It can be said without doubt that both Islam and Christianity share in the same goal ie the development of both the spiritual and mundane aspect of the individual through piety, moderation, respect, tolerance, peace and security.

These characteristics obviously play an important role in man`s individual and social life and as well as his worldly and heavenly prosperity. The entire world has seen times without number the practical demonstration of inter-faith harmony between Christianity and Islam in Ghana especially when the National Chief Imam visited the Church in May 2019 to consolidate the spirit of togetherness and interfaith harmony that we believed had existed between Muslims and Christians in the country.

Anytime the Chief Imam calls on the Christian clergy, it sends some positive signal about the harmony that exists between the two Abrahamic faiths. Some Muslims including myself enjoy listening to the sermons of renowned pastors like Mensah Otabil, Duncan Williams etc.

Regrettably, all the good gestures and demonstration of tolerance and inter faith harmony between Christians and Muslims in the country over the years seem to be honored more in the breach than in the observance by this singular act of endorsement of religious discrimination. Such duplicity and conscious disregard for religious tolerance emboldens extremists around the sub-region and beyond whose ideology and goal is the destruction of human civilization.

Your support does not only give rise to Islamophobia but also questions and threatens the interfaith harmony especially at this crucial juncture when the sub region is passing through a critical period in the struggle against violent extremism.

It is useful to recall the death of Abdul-Gafaru Mustapha in 2008, a final year student of Adisadel College, who on the basis of extreme level of religious intolerance led to his martyrdom, yet the peace loving Muslims of the country let the matter rest.

As a result of the high level of respect for peace and tolerance of the Ghanaian Muslim, many cannot even recall the extremist threats and consistent violent pronouncements directed at the Embassies of Turkey, Iran, Qatar etc by one Dr. Samuel Ofori Onwona of the Christian community in his organized agenda to sow seeds of discord between Christians and Muslims in the country.

It will lead to an endless cycle of threats and extremism if Muslims should also decide to issue threats against certain embassies or missions in the country who are Christian. This conscious threats against Islam is done under the watch of the CCG and the GCBC. Thus, Dr. Samuel Ofori Onwona should be called to order, because polemics breed polemics.

For us in Ghana, we are totally a different breed from other extremists around the sub region and beyond, while we remain committed to employing pacific means to addressing all challenges, your conduct of endorsement of bigotry raises an alarm and seems to create a negative image of interfaith tolerance between the two Abrahamic faiths in the country.

It appears hypocritical if we claim to tolerate and respect each other and turn to create an atmosphere that questions the credibility of the peace, love and tolerance we have been enjoying for the past.

This intervention by the CCG and GCBC has to the largest extent changed the age-old perception that Christians and Muslims tolerate each other in Ghana and I strongly support the assertion of Sheikh Armeyaw the spokesperson of the National Chief Imam.

For we cannot claim to tolerate one another in a breadth while persecuting others in another. We must inject reason in our definition of tolerance. Tolerance must be embraced sincerely devoid of pretence. Christianity and Islam are peace-loving religions and welcome tolerance, unity in diversity and love with people irrespective of faith, class, culture, tribe, race and social status.

Christians and Muslims have lived together in schools, homes, workplaces etc from time immemorial. It is high time your institution of high repute began adopting proper mechanisms devoid of bigotry and extremism to put controls on certain acts of individuals and issues you may deem inconsequential.

I use this medium to humbly call on the CCG and GCBC to reconsider the discriminatory position taken against Bushira Ismael and the religion of Islam in the name of tolerance. Dr. Samuel Ofori Onwona must also be called to reason.

For it appears he is being used by some hidden hawkish individuals or institutions to cause chaos in the country. “Strife is always at rest and the curse of God is upon he/she who provokes it”. It is only the honest application of the message of tolerance, peace and love devoid of hypocrisy can restore the respect, trust, dignity and honor we have been preaching in the country.