A symposium aimed at fostering unity among Muslims and adherents of other religious faiths was held in Accra yesterday.
Held on the theme: “Religious minorities – Rights and obligations”, it was organised by the Muslim World League, in collaboration with the Islamic Centre for Education and Development.
The symposium attracted religious leaders from the Muslim and Christian communities, including the National Chief Imam, Sheikh Osman Nuhu Sharubutu; the Secretary General of the Muslim World League, Dr Muhammad Bin Abdul Karim Alissa; the Chairman of the Hajj Board, Sheikh I.C. Quaye, who also chairs the Islamic Centre for Education Development; the Catholic Archbishop of Cape Coast, the Most Rev. Charles Palmer Buckle, and some members of academia.
Veep in attendance
The Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, who graced the occasion, told the gathering that the fundamental principle underpinning programmes and policies of the government was to ensure that no group of people, particularly the minority in society, was left out of the development process.
He said it was for that reason that the government was putting in place structures and an architecture of inclusion to tackle challenges which had the tendency to exclude minority groups in the country.
“While we try to transform the country as a government, the guiding principle is inclusive transformation and this is really the guiding principle with which the government is managing this economy. We have to be very clear that we are building an inclusive society for our peace and stability.
Joblessness, the lack of education, the lack of access to financial services, among other benefits, breed exclusion and a lot of anger among the youth and people can take advantage of that,” Dr Bawumia stressed.
He said the government was clear on its agenda of inclusion, hence the commencement of the One-constituency, One-ambulance, One-district, One-factory and One-village, One-dam programmes to ensure that nobody was excluded from the development process of the country.
Dr Bawumia described faith as the cohesive vehicle through which morals that guided humanity were shaped, given form and identity, while religion, in its broad sense, was the communal architecture that societies had developed to organise and capture our faith.
“If we rightly identify religion as the bedrock of a moral and positive society that has come to us from God, then societies must ensure that the rights of religious minorities are respected,” he said.
The Vice-President paid tribute to Dr Mohammad Alissa, whom he commended for his special interest in orphans, as well as his role in offering practical solutions to challenges of the youth.
He was hopeful that the platform would shed deeper insight and proffer useful suggestions to better enhance efforts made in the past at ensuring that the rights and obligations of religious minorities were respected and kept.
With regard to the recent visit of the National Chief Imam to the Christ the King Catholic Church in Accra, Dr Bawumia described the decision as laudable and said such gestures abound between people of different faiths.
He said it symbolised a nation ready and willing to give peace a thriving environment to flourish.
“If, indeed, this is our chemistry and social architecture as a country, then we must at all times commit to exhibit harmonious traits towards one another. We must at all times respect one another’s faith, whether majority or minority,” he stressed.
He also said while the state had a role in ensuring that the rights of religious minorities were protected, it was equally the responsibility of minorities to conduct themselves in accordance with the law for the greater good of society.
The President of the Catholic Bishops Conference, the Most Rev. Philip Naameh, in a speech read on his behalf, commended efforts by the government to, at all times, involve all religions in national activities.
He explained that the participation and inclusion of students of other religious faiths in the activities of Catholic schools was not for conversion but for discipline.
For his part, Dr Alissa described Ghana as a country of harmony where people co-existed peacefully, noting that it was an inspiration to the rest of the world on religious tolerance and integration.