Once a Ghanaian Muslim traveled to Ireland. Just as he disembarked from the plane, there was a waiting taxi to send him to his hotel. Whilst on board the taxi, the taxi driver ask him are you a Catholic or a Protestant? The Ghanaian knowing very well that he is neither a Catholic nor a Protestant, kept quiet for a while and was wondering the kind of answer to give to the taxi driver. Even in Christianity, there are Catholics and Protestants, how much more I who is neither of them? The Ghanaian wondered. After a long silence, he cleared his throat and told the taxi driver that I come from Ghana. In Ghana, there is a big tree that we all worship under it irrespective of your religious background. The taxi driver then asked him how come? He said in Ghana we tolerate another irrespective of what you believe in and also accept religious freedom and pluralism. The taxi driver then said Ghana must be a nice country and the Ghanaian said yes it is.
I do not want waste time on which religion is superior or only truthful religion that all must align themselves with it. Throughout the history of the world, people have used religion to perpetrate injustice against fellow man. Many tribes have gone extinct because they were captured and forced to accept religious beliefs that were contrary to their faiths. Christianity and Islam are the chief offenders when in reality, the teachings and practices of these two religions seem the opposite. The human elements exhibited by these two religions have resulted in killings and slavery of fellow man. The same thing can be said of other religions in traditional African beliefs when tribe’s waged war against other tribes, conquered them, and used them for human sacrifices. Religion has always drawn a line of division among men but the most heinous crimes ever committed in the name of religion is when people are forced to deny their beliefs and in some cases are killed.
When the Al-Shabab besieged the West Gate Mall in Kenya in which our very own Professor Kofi Awoonor was killed, BBC and our late broadcast journalist Komla Dumor captured something that attracted my attention too. It was believed that when Al-Shabab attacked the shopping mall, they requested that people say one Quranic verse so that they spare their lives. There was one Muslim man who instead of him to go out to save himself first, he remained in the shopping mall and wrote a lot of Quranic verses on pieces of papers and distributed them to people to memorize it quickly and recite it when it gets to their turn. In that case we saw a sharp contrast between those who are killing others in the name of religion and the other who saved others in the name of the same religion. Who is a true follower of Islam in this case? Those who killed in the name of religion or the one who saved others in the name of same religion?
Currently is it trending on social media in Kenya after a young Muslim managed about 26 years died for refusing to allow Al-Shabab to kill Christian’s passengers on board a vehicle? He laid down his life for his Christian brothers and sisters at the expense of his family, pregnant wife and kids. These are the people I call religious. The same can be found in Christians, Traditional African Religion and all other religions that people have good hearts and respect others irrespective of who you are and where you come from. Religious people are people all over the world who show compassion towards their fellow humans irrespective of their religious background not people who belong to some specific sects.
Ghana has survived religious based violence because of our level of tolerance of other religious groups especially among Christians and Muslims. We have sat in the same classrooms and studied together whether Muslims, Christians, Traditional African Religion or any other religion that has found its way to Ghana. We all have classmates who cut across all the religions and that is the secret of our survival as a nation and people. At workplaces too, we have religious diversity and pluralism cutting across all edges that are likely to create division among us.
In recent times we are seeing some level of fundamentalism among some religious sects and the earlier we quench it, the better for us all. The arrival of the two Guantanamo Bay ex-detainees into the country exhibited some level weakness in us as people as far as religion is concerned. Instead of us to argue objectively the grounds that the people poses some level of threats to us in terms of security, some argued based on their religious sentiments. Some Christians argued that that the people should be sent back based on their religious convictions whilst some Muslims also argued that the people should be accepted based on their religious views and that is very dangerous for our national unity. We will soon make enemies of ourselves if we allow religious sectarianism to take the center of our lives instead of religious tolerance, freedom and pluralism. We must protect our religious diversity, give more rooms tolerance and accept pluralism.
In these times, all peace loving Ghanaians must be wary of leaders who are preaching religious superiority. Those leaders will destabilize and their acts and comments must be condemned by all. I am Christian but I love my friends from other religions. I wish to maintain them till life do us apart.