The National Peace Council (NPC), in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has organised a national stakeholders’ forum on religious tolerance and freedom in Ghana.
The two-day forum brought together representatives of the Ghana Education Service (GES), the Christian Council of Ghana, the Ghana Pentecostal Council, the Catholic Secretariat, Civil Society Organizations, the National Chief Imam, Sheikh Dr Osmanu Nuhu Sharubutu, and the Chairman of the Council of State, Mrs Cecilia Johnson.
The forum sought for peace to prevail; especially, in the nation’s educational institutions and for that matter the country at large.
Professor Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang, Minister of Education, in a speech read on her behalf at the opening ceremony on Monday, in Accra, by Mr Stephen Adu, the GES Deputy Director, said the recent developments, as reported by the media, in educational institutions as regards religious intolerance in some educational institutions was a cause to worry about.
“Ghana has since the arrival of the missionaries in the country to start formal education demonstrated a high sense of tolerance among faith base organizations and therefore, find it very worrying at this time that we need more tolerance to build this country,” the Minister stated.
“Time has passed when an individual could build a nation, now we need a consensus to build our dear country Ghana and cannot afford to allow individual interest to destroy our nation,” she added.
Prof Opoku-Agyemang said the forum was therefore, very critical as it provides a golden opportunity for stakeholders, to not only address the challenge confronting the nation now but also put in place measures to ensure peace in educational institutions and foster a strong collaboration and national unity.
“Education as we know is key to development and to make our lives better, as the government strives for a better Ghana where all the calamities bedeviling us as a country would be over.
“If there is no peace in our educational institutions its major role of providing opportunity for developing this country would not be realized,” she said.
“It is therefore, incumbent on all of us as individuals, religious bodies, educationists, students and school authorities to work together to make our educational institutions a peaceful place to create the conducive environment for effective teaching and learning, the key function of educational institutions.”
She said the importance of freedom of religion begins when individuals were motivated by the need to worship freely in their own way without interference from the state; declaring that, Ghana being a secular state, has no state religion and for this reason, the 1992 constitution guarantees freedom of worship, religion and belief in the country.
Prof Opoku-Agyemang said educational institutions in Ghana had been structured and designed to maintain social order and unity, despite the presence of reasonable pluralism.
She said what should guide all educational institutions are the principle of making it possible for anyone to feel accepted in the institution.
Reverend Prof Emmanuel Asante, the NPC Chairman, said the Council, which is mandated to facilitate and develop mechanism to prevent, manage, resolve and build sustainable peace in the country, views the recent incidence of alleged violations of religious freedoms, as a serious threat to the peace of the country.
He said the Council recently received a petition from the Muslim Caucus of Parliament, the Muslim Student Association and other leaders of the Muslim Community of Ghana, raising concerns about the violations of Article 21 of the 1992 Constitutions by certain heads of educational institutions.
He said it was significant to note that these agitations over alleged violations come at a time when the sub-region and indeed, the entire world is besieged by religious intolerance, fundamentalism and extremism.
He urged participants to be opened minded as they discuss the issue, respecting each other’s views.
Major General Obed Akwa, the Commandant of the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre expressed concern about the spate of religious intolerance that was rearing its ugly head in Ghana.
He lauded the NPC and the UNDP for taking the initiative to organize the forum, as part of efforts to help nip in the bud this ugly development. GNA