Peace in the Sahel region can be achieved if we practice and adhere to “open fraternity”, or a love without limitations, according to the Catholic Bishops Conference.
The bishops also encouraged the use of dialogue to settle differences and diffuse conflicts.
“Dialogue has the potential to be a continuous stimulant to a greater understanding of the truth, or at least its more effective presentation. It prevents various sectors from becoming complacent in their outlooks and self-centered, which in turn prevents them from having narrow concerns,” Very Reverend Father Lazarus Anondee, Secretary General, Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference (GCBC), said.
Very Rev. Fr. Anondee made the comment on Tuesday at the National Forum on Trending Conflict Issues (Sahel Peace Initiative), in Accra. It was organised by the GCBC in partnership with the Catholic Relief Services (CRS).
The event was attended by personnel from the Ghana Armed Forces, Ghana Prisons Service, Ghana Immigration Service, Christian Council of Ghana, Political parties, Traditional leaders, among others.
The Sahel stretches from the Atlantic Ocean eastward through northern Senegal, southern Mauritania, the great bend of the Niger River in Mali, Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta), southern Niger, northeastern Nigeria, south-central Chad, and into Sudan.
It forms the cultural boundary between the Middle East and North Africa to the North and sub-Saharan Africa to the South.
The Secretary General said the Central Sahel region of West Africa was currently experiencing an upsurge in violence due to increased extremism, weakened national institutions, and diminishing natural resources.
Very Rev. Fr. Anondee said the violence had caused the migration of millions of people who had left their homes in search of security and had reached Ghanaian communities and villages.
He urged participants to collaborate with local communities and civil society, including religious leaders, to rebuild trust in local and national state institutions and rekindle civic participation.
During a presentation on Terrorism and Violent Extremism, Colonel Dr Tim Ba-Taa-Banah, Director, National Counter Terrorism Fusion Centre of the Ministry of National Security, said even though Ghana had not yet recorded any direct terrorist attacks, it was not immune to such attacks.
He urged Ghanaians to remain vigilant and report any suspicious acts to security agencies.
The Director added that security personnel would continue to strengthen their strategies to counter any looming threats along Ghana’s borders. “We will not be complacent and we have no cause to be complacent,” he added.
Mr Francis Poku, a former National Security Coordinator and Cabinet Minister responsible for National Security, said good governance was the antidote to diffuse brewing threats of terrorist attacks.
He therefore urged the Government to promote social cohesion and restore lost hope to citizens.
Mr Emmanuel H. Bombande, Senior Mediation Adviser, Department of Political Affairs, United Nations, encouraged participants to hold financiers of “galamsey” accountable, especially politicians.
He urged Churches not to wait for chaos to spark before taking steps to settle them, but to be “bold” and counter these conflicts before they sprang up.
Fr. Clement M. Aapengnuo, a Conflict Prevention and Peace-building Consultant, called for the creation of a conducive environment for people to interact and focus on their common humanity.
He urged participants to eschew disunity, deepen ties with each other, and leave behind a legacy worthy of emulation.