Nation cannot be democratic without religious tolerance - Speaker
Rev Prof Aaron Michael Oquaye, the Speaker of Parliament has stressed the need for more religious tolerance as relevant to sustaining democratic rule in Ghana.
“The nation cannot be democratic if the citizens are not able to tolerate one another,” the Speaker said, as he gave Ghanaians thumbs up for their diverse roles that sustained uninterrupted democratic governance for more than 26 years.
In a speech at the Ninth Annual Night of Power, organised by the Muslim Caucus of Parliament, at the Parliament House, in Accra, the Speaker urged Ghanaians to continue to respect the different approaches to religion, and its alternatives.
The celebration, which was held on the theme “Fostering Religious Tolerance and Societal Harmony: The Role of the Muslim", afforded members of the Muslim Caucus in Parliament the opportunity to pray for the three arms of government-the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary.
It was attended by Vice President Mahamadu Bawumia, National Chief Imam Sheikh Dr Osman Sharabutu, both the Majority and Minority Leaders of Parliament, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, the Clergy and a cross section of Ghanaians, and provided an opportunity for all to break bread and share thoughts on more tolerance for one another to enhance the peace and unity of the nation.
Called Laylat al-Qadr in Arabic, and variously rendered in English as the Night of Decree, Night of Power, Night of Value, Night of Destiny, or Night of Measures, is, in Islamic belief, the night when the first verses of the Quran were revealed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
It is one of the nights of the last ten days of Ramadan. Muslims believe that on this night the blessings and mercy of God are abundant, sins are forgiven, supplications are accepted, and that the annual decree is revealed to the angels who also descend to earth, especially the angel Gabriel, referred to as "the Spirit", to perform every and any errand decreed by God.
Speaker Oquaye reminded the congregation and the celebrants that freedom of worship is important, if the citizenry truly want to hold on to democracy.
He drew a correlation between where one is born and the likelihood on belonging to one particular religion, saying that it does appear that many come to belong to a particular religion as a result of place of birth.
The Speaker, later affectionately given the name Mohamed, at the programme, interspersed his delivery with Islamic exhortations in Arabic, and indicated that he would himself have been a Muslim if he had perhaps been born in an Islamic area.
“We must respect one another and live in peace and harmony. No need to fight; there should be unity in diversity,” Rev Prof Oquaye said, adding “we believe in one God, why the fight in certain places?”
The Speaker described Ghana as a shining example of religious peace, but rather with Satan as a common enemy, whose motto is disunity, and sets out to destroy.
Rev Prof Oquaye advised that for adherents of the religious faiths to adopt persuasion rather than force as means of converting people.
The Speaker, who was highly acknowledged for his support to the Night of Power, made a quantity of donations to the celebration of the Night of Power.
Majority Leader Osei Kyei-Mensah Bonsu, on his part, said Muslims and Christians belonged to the same stock therefore religious intolerance and polarisation had no place in the country.
“We are one nation, one people with one destiny, therefore nothing should set us apart for conflict, “he added.
He lauded the noble gesture of Sheikh Dr Sharabutu for paying a historic visit to Christ the King Catholic Church during the Easter Sunday, describing it as exemplary and worthy of emulation.
‘We have a common father, but different mothers and as such we may agree and disagree and that shouldn’t make us enemies,” he noted.
Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu, for his part, underscored the need for all members of religious faiths to strive for perfection and righteous living.
He said the Chief Imam’s visit to the Catholic Church was legitimate and in consonance with Qur’anic teachings that advocated religious tolerance and solidarity with other faiths.
Mr Ben Abdallah Banda, the Chairman of the Muslim Caucus in Parliament, called for continued dialogue and consensus building between Muslims and Christians to ensure peaceful co-existence.