By Priscilla Oye Ofori
Accra, March 12, GNA – Mrs Mariam Agyeman Gyasi Jawhary, a Private Legal Practitioner, has advised Ghanaians to continuously promote religious tolerance for national development.
She said religious tolerance was expressed by the acceptance of religious pluralism, which gave legitimacy to the existence of religious differences in society.
Mrs Jawhary said this at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association’s (Lajna Imaillah) Centenary Peace Symposium in Accra.
The symposium, which brought together Muslim women groups, representatives of religious bodies, Non-Governmental Organisations and peace building institutions, was on the theme: “Religious Tolerance and Peaceful Co-existence.”
Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion: this right includes the freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom either alone or in community with others and in private or public, to manifest his religion or belief in worship or observance, practice and teaching.”
The Lawyer said tolerance would find fertile land to grow when extremism and intolerance were eschewed.
She said: “Islam rejects compelling anyone to adopt or leave a religion; it explicitly allows non-Muslims to express, practice and teach their religious beliefs.”
Mrs Jawhary noted that a particular religion could engender many positives in individuals and societies, however, it also had the undeniable negative of engendering and nurturing intolerance among people of different faiths.
“I hasten to add that the negatives are the result of some persons twisting, adopting and propagating certain interpretations of religious belief for various reasons, including self-aggrandisement, encouragement of superstitions, exploitation of people for commercial and economic reasons as well as power,” the Lawyer added.
Mrs Zuweira Lariba Abudu, Minster for Gender, Children and Social Protection, in a speech read on her behalf, said the country had a long history of religious diversity which allowed for co-existence among the various religions.
She said despite occasional tensions and conflicts, the society had largely embraced religious diversity and tolerance, and many religious organisations were given common platforms to collaborate on projects aimed at promoting peace, development and social welfare.
Mrs Abudu said the Government and the Gender Ministry with its partners had been supportive of religious tolerance and cooperation by organising programmes and activities to promote violence-free societies.
The Minister said they also promoted policies and frameworks at empowering all persons to achieve their full potential and to live peacefully with themselves, as well as peaceful co-existence.
Professor Jane Naana Opoku Agyemang, a former Minister of Education, noted that tolerance provided an opportunity to learn from others by listening, appreciating, respecting and understanding the views of others which would foster peace.
She urged the citizenry to showcase their religion through the relationship with each other and caring, especially for the disadvantaged, in health or in education.
“We live in a country where the highest percentage of people are religious. My prayer is that it shows in the way we relate to each other,” Prof. Opoku-Agyemang said.
Hajia Anisa Nasirudeen Iddrisu, President, National Sadr of Lajna Ima’illah Ghana, called on the youth to pursue and embrace peace for development of the nation.
She said the world was struggling to establish perfect peace, hence, the need for the message of peace to be spread continuously.
She appealed to the Government to enhance security in the country.
Naa Akua Ntwaban IV, Paramount Queen Mother, Oau Traditional Area, called on all women to play their roles in the bringing up responsible children and promote peaceful.
She called for the teaching of peace in schools.
Institutions and organisations such as the Kofi Annan Peacekeeping Traning Centre, Interfaith Wowen’s Network, Federation of Muslims Women’s Association, Chance for Children and the West African Network for Peacebuilding, pledged their support to promote peaceful co-existence in the country.
The Women’s Association of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission was established on December 25, 1922, to foster unity, promote spiritual and moral education, and advance the welfare of women and children globally.
Lajna Ima’illah is established in over 200 countries with its headquarters in the United Kingdom.