The condemnation that has greeted the proposed sponsorship of pastors by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government to the holy land of Israel to pray for mother Ghana would simply not die, as more Ghanaians continue to express their disapproval over the action of the government.
The latest group to add its voice to the condemnation is the Ghana Integrity Initiative, led by Mr. Vitus Azeem.
In a statement released in Accra yesterday, the GII recalled similar actions taken by the same NDC and its predecessor New Patriotic Party (NPP) government, which reportedly sponsored some Muslims to the holy land of Mecca on a pilgrimage, based purely on party lines.
The following is the unedited version of the statement;
Ghana Integrity Initiative has noted with grave concern the government’s decision to extend an unsolicited offer to Christian groups to nominate their members to undertake a religious pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
The sponsorship for the trip was supposed to have been made by an unnamed entity, which itself, raises a lot of suspicion. Much as GII agrees that Christians are Ghanaians, and are entitled to a fair share of the nation’s resources, GII believes that there are better and more effective ways of distributing national resources, rather than offering unsolicited funded pilgrimages to religious groups.
GII recalls that in the past, both the National Democratic Congress and the New Patriotic Party have sponsored identified Muslims to undertake pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia on a regular basis. GII has noted further that these governmental gestures have tended to be rewards for political support from party members.
The selection of beneficiaries has been conducted along party lines, as Members of Parliament (MPs) and Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chiefs Executives (MMDCEs) are normally asked to nominate persons to participate in the pilgrimage.
Moreover, Muslims who have the resources to undertake the pilgrimage on their own have taken advantage of these gestures and abused the ‘show of love by the President’. Some of these beneficiaries have included Senior Civil Servants, Ministers, Members of Parliament, and party leaders.
In some cases, members of the Hajj Planning Committee and other influential persons have allegedly abused the gesture and travelled with their spouses and other family members at state expense, when they can afford to fund the trip themselves.
When the NDC assumed power in 2009, the government was alleged to have sponsored about 400 pilgrims at a minimum of $4,000.00 per head.
In addition, some of those pilgrims were allegedly transported to Accra by various MMDAs at state expense while some of them also allegedly paid pocket allowances for the pilgrims.
The Holy Quran is very clear about the pilgrimage. It addresses the people who can afford to undertake the pilgrimage to undertake such pilgrimage. It does not encourage those who cannot afford and it does not encourage the use of public resources to fund pilgrimages.
After several years of this discrimination, the NDC government has now found it necessary to extend this show of profligate state expenditure to a selected Christian community by providing unsolicited full support to those who had never sought any support from the government to travel on pilgrimage to Israel. This is similar to huge donations by government to families at the funerals of influential people.
Ghana is currently facing many developmental challenges reflected in inadequate infrastructure, poor water supply, unreliable energy system, a failing school system and inadequate healthcare delivery among many others.
The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) has virtually collapsed and has consistently failed to pay service providers, including the Christian Association of Health Care Providers, for almost a year.
It was only until some of them withdrew their services that any attempt has been made to pay them for past service rendered. The only credible reason for this unacceptable state of affairs is the lack of funds.
Any ruling party must eschew undue partisanship and/or self-interest, vote buying and abuse of power. The cardinal purpose for which public resources should be put is for the provision of quality and dedicated service to the citizens and national development and not for narrow parochial partisan interest.
GII urges any group of people and any political party which finds itself in power to always put the interest of the nation first. In the current situation, GII strongly calls on the government to abort the plans to sponsor the unsolicited pilgrimage of Christian religious leaders to Israel and other religious groups to their various holy grounds.
The government should offer the nation an explanation as to the source of the sponsorship as alleged by the Minister for Youth and Sports in his letter written to the intended beneficiaries. The volume of the resources involved should not be an issue of debate. These religious pilgrimages should not be funded by the state.
The NDC government should be looking at providing solutions to the myriad of problems facing the nation such as the energy crisis and water situation which has rendered life miserable for many Ghanaians including Christians and Muslims rather than trying to score unnecessary political points where none is needed or has been asked for.
The interests of such people and the secular needs of such people can be better served by providing them the much needed facilities which they currently lack and which can make their lives worthwhile than transporting them to faraway lands on the excuse of meeting their spiritual needs.
The NDC government should rather focus on providing the essential needs of these people. GII calls on the government to stop this discriminatory practice and address the priorities of the majority of the people in this country.
Furthermore, GII calls on all the Christian groups that have received this unsolicited offer to reject it outright if they are really Christians that think of the poor and marginalized in society. Those who can afford to go on pilgrimage should go at their own expense and not tap on the limited resources of the state to fulfill their religious obligations.
Finally, GII wishes to make it clear that it has no problems with any religious group or with people undertaking pilgrimage of any form, be it religious, political or what have you.
In fact, GII has two senior religious leaders, the Metropolitan Catholic Archbishop of Accra and the Ameer of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission in Ghana, on its Board of Directors, who have always provided dedicated service, including spiritual guidance, to the board and the GII entity.
Issued by Ghana Integrity Initiative