…Christian Council warns against division
The upcoming 2024 general elections, have taken a religious tone with the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) led by Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia and the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) led by ex-President John Mahama, at each other’s throats.
The seeming division, has gotten the Christian Council of Ghana (CCG) to caution voters against injecting religious sentiments into the impending polls, emphasizing that both flagbearers, Dr Bawumia, a Muslim and ex-President Mahama, a Christian, do not represent religious identities or ideologies in their candidacy.
Rt Rev Dr Hilliard Dogbe, the Chairman of the CCG, at a conference on Religion and Peaceful Co-existence in Accra, issued the warning in response to concerns raised by participants, including Senior Research Fellow, Kwesi Jonah.
What is interesting is that, while ex-President Mahama, had a Christian father Emmanuel Adama Mahama, his mum,Hajia Abiba Nneba was a Muslim. She passed away in June 2016 and was buried at Damongo according to Islamic rites.
Mr Mahama’s book “My First Coup d’Etat: And Other True Stories from the Lost Decades of Africa”, reveals how his dad became a Christian, as a result of missionaries who operated in the then Northern territories.
Dr Bawumia on the other hand, had disclosed growing up with a Methodist mother and being an active part of a Methodist Boys’ grouping, but that changed when his mother, then Susana Mariama, reverted to Islam – the faith her husband – Mumuni Bawumia practised.
He had said Bawumia, while speaking at the launch of the 175th-anniversary celebrations of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church Ghana (EPCG) in Accra on Sunday, July 31, 2022, cited himself as a testament to how different faiths can co-exist
“We live in a society where a mother and some children could be Christians and a father and some children could be Muslims. As a young boy at Sakasaka primary school in Tamale, I was born to a Methodist mother (then Susana Mariama) and a Muslim father.
“Growing up I was an active member of the Methodist Boys’ Brigade until my mum changed to Islam. I suspect I am the only Muslim member of the Boys’ Brigade. Till date, out of my seventeen siblings, nine are Christians and eight are Muslims. That is the beauty of the religious acceptance in Ghana,” Dr Bawumia revealed.
This comes as the Muslim Caucus of Ghana’s parliament, has taken the Member of Parliament for Ningo Prampram, Sam Nartey George, for labelling Dr. Bawumia as a religious prostitute with members, saying Mr George’s comments are very offensive and disrespectful to the Muslim community.
In a statement signed by the Chairman of the caucus, Farouk Aliu Mahama, such a remark from an MP is dangerous to the cohesion between the religious fraternities in Ghana, adding such comments could incite violence among opposing groups in the country.
The Christian Council, had stressed that focusing on unnecessary religious comments could lead to tension and conflict, jeopardising the democratic credentials, peace, and stability of the country.
Rt Rev Dr Dogbe, urged Ghanaians to prioritise the thinking ability of candidates and avoid injecting religious or ethnic tension into the elections.
He emphasised the need to learn from past elections and advocated for political parties to prioritise the welfare of the citizenry over parochial interests.
Various leaders at the conference, including the Omanhene of Essikado Traditional Area and the National Chief Imam, emphasised the importance of tolerance, unity, and collaboration among diverse groups to build sustainable peace.
The National Peace Council Chairman, Rev Dr Ernest Adu-Gyamfi, urged stakeholders to work together, despite religious and political differences for the collective goal of fostering peace in Ghana and the West Africa sub-region.
Farouk Aliu Mahama, was quoted as saying, “As a Chairman of the Muslim Caucus in Parliament, I strongly condemn the religious bigotry statement made by Sam George against Vice-President Bawumia. Such remarks are not only offensive, but also perpetuate stereotypes, discrimination, and unfair treatment based on an individual’s religious beliefs.
“It is even more harmful and counterproductive for that to come from an Honourable Member of Parliament. The magnitude of the source of the comment is inciting and stifles open and honest conversations that are necessary for progress and unity. As we inch closer to 2024 electioneering, we encourage all individuals, political actors and organisations to refrain from engaging in religious bigotry and to condemn such statements when they arise,” a portion of the statement reads.
Sam George, in a bid to take a swipe at the NPP flagbearer Dr Bawumia, called him a ‘religious prostitute’ while speaking on the November 8 edition of Good Morning Ghana on Metro TV.
He explained that, the vice president professes his faith in both the Islamic and Christian religions concurrently, seeing that he is mostly seen in churches and mosques, for political activities.
Explaining further, Sam George, referenced instances when the Vice President, Dr Bawumia, remained silent on issues that were most important to Muslims, such as the Hijab controversy, and the killings of Muslim youth in Kumasi.
To him, no true Muslim will also publicly proclaim Jesus as Lord and Saviour or kneel before men of God for prayers.
“When the issue of the Hijabs came up in this country for Muslim girls, did you ever hear Dr Bawumia speak? When the issue of fasting for girls came up during Ramadan, he was silent. When the Muslim Zongo youth were killed in cold blood in Kumasi, Dr Bawumia was silent.
“No true Muslim anywhere in this world believes that Jesus Christ is our lord and saviour. No true Muslim kneels before a Catholic priest or a pastor to lay hands on them – only Bawumia. If you like, you can take the Suraj Mariama that talks about who Jesus is. They do not see Jesus Christ as their lord and personal saviour as we do,” he said.
In response, Farouk Aliu Mahama, the chairman of the Parliamentary Muslim Caucus in his statement said “The Muslim Caucus of Ghana’s Parliament has taken note of Sam George’s deplorable comments and finds his characterization of the Vice President as a “religious prostitute” appalling, reprehensible and terrible. Such language is offensive, disrespectful, and unbecoming of productive discourse.
“As members of a religiously diverse society, it is essential that we engage in respectful dialogue, especially when discussing matters of religion and personal beliefs. The practice of cross-cutting of inter-religious faith is long-aged and predates the regular participation of Vice President Bawumia in the activities of Ghana’s Christendom. Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama was a friend to many churches and was fully engrossed in their various activities. Similar courtesies can be said by successive Presidents towards the Muslim Community in Ghana. The Clergy and the Islamic clerics also beautifully coexist and happily honour programmes of differing faiths. The use of such bigotry terms, particularly those that objectify or demean the Vice President’s inclusive and unifying practice undermines the religious tolerance we enjoy as a nation and that has endeared us to the rest of the world.
“As a Chairman of the Muslim Caucus in Parliament, i strongly condemn the religious bigotry statement made by Sam George against Vice-President Bawumia. Such remarks are not only offensive but also perpetuate stereotypes, discrimination, and unfair treatment based on an individual’s religious beliefs.
“Religious tolerance and inclusivity are fundamental principles that should guide any democratic society. By engaging in religious bigotry, Sam George undermines these principles and contributes to the division within our society. We call for respectful and inclusive discourse that focuses on the ideas, policies, and actions of individuals rather than their religious background. It is imperative that we promote understanding and acceptance of diversity in all its forms, including religious diversity.
“It is even more harmful and counterproductive for that to come from an Honourable Member of Parliament. The magnitude of the source of the comment is inciting and stifles open and honest conversations that are necessary for progress and unity. As we inch closer to 2024 electioneering, we encourage all individuals, political actors and organizations to refrain from engaging in religious bigotry and to condemn such statements when they arise.
“The inter-religious peace, tolerance, serenity and harmony we enjoy as a nation are scarce commodities in many countries and every citizen is duty-bound to guard them. Any individual whose omissions and commissions will tinker with the progress we have made must be called out and condemned in the harshest terms possible. Let’s work together to build a society that values religious freedom, respect, and understanding among all its citizens.
The Herald ghana