The Chieftaincy Ministry, in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and influential figures from academia, has issued a resounding call for individuals, irrespective of religious affiliation, to embrace religious harmony and coexist peacefully.
A significant aspect of this advocacy is the protection of women’s and girls’ rights, particularly in cases where religious practices may infringe on their fundamental human rights. The coalition asserts that by promoting religious harmony, it can help eradicate practices that disproportionately affect women, ensuring their freedom, dignity, and equality in society.
The call was made when the Ministry concluded extensive stakeholder consultations regarding the proposed National Policy on Religion.
Over the course of two weeks, these consultations traversed all 16 regions, culminating in the final session held concurrently on Monday in the Greater Accra and Upper West regions.
In a speech read on his behalf, the Minister of Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs, Stephen Asamoah Boateng, recognised the influential role of political figures and stressed the importance of promoting unity and peaceful co-existence among diverse religious communities.
He highlighted the importance of gathering perspectives from various sectors, including representatives of religious communities, civil society organisations, academic institutions, media outlets, and the general public.
Mr Asamoah Boateng urged stakeholders to contribute their views, concerns, suggestions, and recommendations to shape a policy that aligns with the aspirations and values of the people.
“We want to listen to your views, concerns, suggestions, and recommendations on how to shape a policy that reflects the aspirations and values of our people. This, we believe, will help us ensure that our religious environment is devoid of rancour, bickering, and acrimony. When this is achieved, we will coexist, and Ghana will win eventually,” the Minister said.
He thanked partners such as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Ghana Country Office, the National Development Planning Commission, and the Department for the Study of Religions at the University of Ghana, Legon that made the consultation possible.
The UNFPA Country Representative, Dr. Wilfred Ochan, in a speech read for him, emphasised the global influence of religious leaders, pointing out their major role in influencing community attitudes and leading reforms that would benefit the nation.
“We are aware of the fact that religious leaders are believed to have the following and ability to allow their followers to step into the unknown with ease. They are an essential support for many, both adults and adolescents, in their everyday lives. Faith-based organisations are unique with their followers in society, and it is evident the world over,” he added.
He underscored the need to work closely with institutions like the Chieftaincy Ministry to foster partnerships that respect human rights and safeguard the health and well-being of individuals.
For Dr. Harry L. K Agbanu, a consultant for the Chieftaincy Ministry from the Department for the Study of Religions at the University of Ghana, it is essential to eschew religious differences in Ghana’s pluralistic society.
He emphasised that religion should be a unifying force rather than a divisive one, fostering a peaceful coexistence among Ghanaians.
Dr. Agbanu highlighted key issues raised during the consultations, including concerns about religious noisemaking, intolerance, inter and intra-religious tensions, rights of women and children, and instances of witchcraft accusations leading to injuries and fatalities.
The National Policy on Religion, currently in draft form, aims to guide religious activities and address challenges arising from the coexistence of diverse faiths and beliefs in society.
It seeks to provide a framework for the protection and promotion of the rights and freedoms of all religious groups while preventing and resolving conflicts