Don’t be used as weapons of violence. Opuni-Frimpong, Chief Imam advise youth

The Christian Council of Ghana (CCG) and the Office of the National Chief Imam have appealed to the youth not to allow themselves to be used as weapons of violence and destruction as the country gird its loins for the November polls.

The two religious bodies said the youth should rather use their exuberance to explain the policies and programmes of the various political parties to the electorate to enable them to make informed decisions during the elections.

They observed that as unemployment took its toll on young people, there were signs on the wall that if their energy was not tapped into productive ventures, it could become instruments of trouble in the hands of unscrupulous politicians in the run-up to the elections. 

The General Secretary of the CCG, Rev. Dr Kwabena Opuni-Frimpong, and the Spokesperson of the National Chief Imam, Sheikh Armiyawo Shaibu, made the appeal at a breakfast meeting hosted by the Danish Ambassador to Ghana, Ms Tove Degnbol, in Accra yesterday. 

The meeting discussed issues of mutual concern, deepened inter-faith harmony and also cleared perceptions that the positions of the two bodies on the arrival of the two Guantanamo ex-prisoners meant they were at loggerheads. 
At peace 
The two religious leaders insisted  that contrary to perceptions, the two groups were at peace with each other. 

Sheikh Shaibu observed that religion was a means God gave to humans to give expression to His goodness, but, unfortunately, because of human weaknesses, religion itself had given rise to strife. 
“We want to indicate to our young people that our sense of religion enjoins us to respect life and the sanctity of human blood and also acknowledge our common humanity and all that relates to it. Rev. Dr Kwabena Opuni-Frimpong (left) and  Sheikh Armiyawo Shaibu sharing some ideas at a breakfast meeting hosted by the Danish Embassy. Picture: EMMANUEL QUAYE
“In responding to issues, we must be mindful of the fact that in spite of the difficulties, we don’t have the right to spill blood or lose human life,” he added.  

Great responsibility 
Ahead of the general election, he said, religious leaders had a greater task of ensuring that the country had a united front. 

“We have a greater responsibility this year. If we break our front, we will be in trouble because our citizens will run to the mosques and churches if there is a problem. That is why, morally and ethically, we owe it a duty to be united,” he said. 

GITMO issues 
After the arrival of the two Guantanamo prisoners, three major Christian groups — the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference, the CCG and the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council (GPCC) — asked the government to demonstrate that it was a listening one by sending the two former prisoners back to where they came from.

The Office of the National Chief Imam disagreed with the request, urging the three groups to show the compassion their faith instructed. 

Going back to the issue on the table at the meeting, Sheikh Shaibu said it was unfortunate that the issue took that turn and insisted that although it caused a stir between the two faiths, it did not affect the core relationship between them.

“Ghana is seen as an oasis of peace surrounded by countries that are in turmoil. Ghana keeps giving its lessons to other countries within the sub-region. It will not be in our interest to fall back and plunge ourselves into instability fomented by religious disagreement,” the Islamic scholar said. 
He also rallied religious bodies to hold hands in fighting issues of poverty, conflict, disease and things that had no respect for religious barriers.

We are one 
For his part, Rev. Dr Opuni-Frimpong discredited perceptions that the growing instances of insurgency across the continent were perpetrated against only Christians and argued that there were extremists in both religions. 

He urged members of the two faiths to see themselves as one, in spite of the differences. 
“We may have many faiths but we are one people. We have differences in terms of politics, gender and other things but we are one people. 

“We can rise above our fears and suspicions and pursue our common good. This is the only country we have and we must leave a better world for generations coming after us. We must not destroy this country because of politics, religion and gender,” he said. 

He observed that over the years, religious bodies had concentrated on ensuing that Ghana’s elections were peaceful by engaging the political actors both in public and behind closed doors.

 On the Guantanamo prisoners, Rev. Dr Opuni-Frimpong said if the issue created the impression that Christians and Muslims were at war, the reality was that it was not so. 

“We are not at war. We have differences but we have resolved them. Let all those who thought Christians are against Muslims clear their minds. We only raised concerns. We are not calling for exchange of harsh words,” he added. 

He commended the role of the Danish Embassy and other development partners in ensuring that the country’s democracy continued to walk on the right path.. 
Calm tensions 

Ms Degnbol commended the two leaders for accepting her invitation, adding that as the elections approached, religious leaders had a role to play to calm tension if it arose.
She observed that young people listened to religious leaders and so the latter were in a better position to address issues of peace and security, adding that there were more things that united the two faiths than divided them. 


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