Stakeholders have called for enhanced inclusive public policies, systems and service provisions geared at promoting a more religiously tolerant environment for strengthened national cohesion and peaceful coexistence.
Such a move, according to them at a forum in Bolgatanga, would help address misconceptions, demystify religious myths, stereotypes, and bigotry, promote participation and freedom, respect, and love among varied religions in the country.
They said public service provision institutions in particularly schools, healthcare facilities, government institutions and other social services sectors should develop inclusive operational policies that accommodated all persons irrespective of their religious affiliations.
The stakeholders including traditional and religious groups, youth groups, government institutions, security agencies among others made the call during a regional stakeholder engagement on a proposed National Policy on Region held at Bolgatnga in the Upper East Region.
The nationwide activity is being done by the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
The goal of the stakeholder engagements is to solicit inputs from major stakeholders to help the Ministry to develop a national policy on religion that would promote an inclusive and tolerant religious environment for social cohesion and peaceful coexistence.
The policy when developed and approved by cabinet and Parliament would serve as a framework for the implementation of various programmes, policies and interventions that would help address religious intolerance and conflict and promote a more inclusive country for sustainable development.
Shaikh Abu-Bakr Sadiq Abdul-Rahaman, Member of Upper East Regional Peace Council noted that the discriminatory system in some public institutions like schools and health facilities was creating hatred and hypocrisy among believers of various religions.
“So, those institutions that have developed ahead of others should make the environment so tolerant such that if you come you will not be allowed to flaw any regulations that is inuring to a disciplinary academic performance but in terms of doctrinal issues, we should allow people to express freedom in those institutions and that will not only bring peaceful coexistence but love,” he added.
Naba Sigri Bewong, the Paramount Chief of Sakote Traditional Area in the Nabdam District, commended government for the move to develop a policy that would promote religious tolerance and national cohesion and added that it would promote respect and prevent conflict.
He urged the need for incorporation of intensified education to eliminate wrong perceptions about certain groups of people to prevent hasty generalization which usually gave rise to religious conflicts.
Mr Richard Obeng Boafo, Head of Religious Affairs at the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs, said there were numerous issues that affected the desired coexistence among religious bodies, and added that the goal of the national policy is to help streamline and harmonise such issues and ways to address them for social cohesion and promote a tolerant environment.
“We are here basically to solicit information from our stakeholders especially the religious bodies to know the issues, comments, suggestions and proposals to feed into the strategies that will be developed under the policies and will make the stakeholders own the policy,” he added.
In a speech read on his behalf, Dr Wilfred Ochan, UNFPA Ghana Country Representative, said cultural and religious factors played critical roles in shaping community attitudes and called for more engagements and dialogue to promote justice, respect for human rights, and help create a better future for young people.
Professor Rose Mary Amenga-Etego, the Head of Department of Religions affairs at the University of Ghana, who facilitated the engagement noted that more consultations were required to develop a more inclusive policy to address challenges on the ground.