Reverend Dr Johnson Mbillah, a former General Advisor, Programme for Christian-Muslim Relations in Africa, has advised Ghanaians to desist from politicising religion, to maintain the peace the nation enjoys.
“Religion is highly implicated when it comes to violent extremism and should be given positive attention,” he said.
Dr Mbillah said this on Wednesday while addressing attendees at the “11th Annual Interfaith Symposium” organised by the Center for Christian-Muslim Engagement in Africa of the Akrofi-Christaller Institute of Theology, Mission and Culture in Accra.
The theme for the Symposium is, “The Rise in Regional Threat of Terrorism and Religious Extremism: Implications for Security and Interreligious Engagement in Ghana.”
He said the country, needed to be conscious about religious theological and ideological framework, citing an example of how Christians believed everybody belonged to the body of Christ.
The citizenry, he said, ought to prioritise their nationality before their religion.
“If you vote for a person on religious lines, you are telling the person that when he comes to power, he should work to favour that religion and is that not devising?”
Dr Mbillah noted that violent radicalisation, preceded violent extremism, which in turn produced terrorism.
Violent extremists have a philosophy that makes them see agenda of all sectors especially political, religious, economic and social as wrong and wrongfully managed, he said.
“So they ask the question, who can fix it? They then respond, we alone can fix it. When they believe they are the only ones who could fix it, the problem then begins,” he said.
“That is the motive of Boko Haram as they think anything Western is wrong.”
Dr Vladimir Antwi-Danso, the Director of Academic Affairs, Ghana Armed Forces Command & Staff College, mentioned bad governance, compensation and the Global Arms Trade, inequity in the Global Division of Labour, the Cold War, the class of civilisation, unilateralism, and violent extremism especially religious as causes of terrorism.
In 2014, there were 13,370 terrorists attacks in 93 countries across the globe and 78 per cent of those killed in the attacks were in five countries including Nigeria, he said.
He said in 2014, Boko Haram caused 453 attacks and harms out of which 6,400 people died.
By this, he said, Ghana was not entirely safe and needed to be more security conscious and urged leaders of the country to educate the public to know who a terrorist could be.
“Many of us think a terrorist would appear dressing like a Muslim with a covered face, but that is false,” he said.
He advised that the country strengthened its inter and intra-religious engagement.
Reverend Professor B. Y. Quarshie, the Rector of the Akrofi-Christaller Institute, who chaired the symposium said some events in recent years, increasingly made the West African sub-region a major target and hub for religious extremism and terrorism.
The greatest threat, he noted, was that most of the contemporary organised terrorist groups with religious connotations are around neighbouring countries of Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria.
He explained that the theme for the Symposium, therefore, intended to explore what the alarming reality implied for the security of Ghana and the sub-region.
Dr Harun Zagoon-Sayeed, the Executive Director of the Baraka Policy Institute, advised the public to stop politicising their culture and underrating that of other ethnic groups, as that could do away with peace.
“Forcing Christians to worship the Muslim way in Muslim schools and forcing Muslim females to take off their ‘Hijab’ is a security threat issue and ought to be stopped,” he said.