The Vice-President, Mr John Dramani Mahama, has urged religious leaders to be neutral and non-partisan in their sermons and utterances during this year’s presidential and parliamentary election.
He said it was only when the political leaders remained non-partisan that they could play the role of independent arbitors in case of political disputes.
He again charged the youth in Muslim communities not to allow themselves to be recruited by politicians as political thugs to visit mayhem on their perceived political opponents.
Mr Mahama made the call Thursday at the opening of the 80th annual national convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission of Ghana at Gomoa Pomadze in the Central Region.
The three-day convention is on the theme: “Ensuring Free, Fair and Transparent Elections – The Role of Religion”.
The convention is to provide the platform for more than 5,000 members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission of Ghana to deliberate on their past activities and strategise for the future.
The Catholic Achbishop of Accra, Most Rev Charles Palmer-Buckle, Sheikh Mahmoud Gedel, a representative of the National Chief Imam, the Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Mr Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey and the General Secretary of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketia, were some of the dignitaries who attended the opening ceremony.
The event, which was marked by a number of activities including recitation of portions of the Holy Qur’an, Arabic poems and praise songs, was chaired by a former Chairman of the NDC, Alhaji Issifu Ali.
The Vice-President said the job of political leaders was cut out for them since they could be partisan in their utterances as they mainly addressed their members.
However, he said, “with the religious leaders their congregation is a mixture of members of all the political parties”.
Therefore, he said, “religious leaders should be careful so that their message is not misinterpreted”, and indicated that their image would be enhanced if they exhibited neutrality in their utterances.
Mr Mahama asked religious leaders to be vigilant and alert to correct any wrongs during the election instead of waiting for them to get out of hand before reacting.
“They (the religious leaders) must feel free to correct if they see things going wrong”, he stresssed.
The Vice-President recalled that leaders of various religious groups intervened to cool down tension when the electoral atmosphere got heated up during the 2008 election.
He commended religious groups for engaging in intercessory prayers for the country, and stated that the prevailing peace was mainly due to the active prayers of those groups.
He, therefore, asked religious groups to continue to pray for the country to ensure peace during and after the election.
Mr Mahama affirmed the government’s commitment to support the Electoral Commission (EC) to conduct free, fair and transparent election this year.
He stressed that Ghana had earned accolades as a haven of peace in a turbulent sub-region, and said the government was committed to protecting that image.
On the youth, the Vice-President charged the youth in Muslim dominated communities to try to erase the perception that the places for recruiting political thugs were in those communities.
He said the youth in the Muslim communities could also prove that they could be peaceful, tolerant and accommodating.
Touching on the activities of Ahmadiyya, Mr Mahama commended the Mission for complementing government’s efforts in the education, health and agriculture sectors.
For his part, the Ameer and the Missionary-In-Charge of the Almadiyya Muslim Mission, Dr Wahab Adam Ameer, called on all Ghanaians, particularly, the politicians to exihibit a sense of cooperation and collaborations, irrespective of their ethnic, religious or political diversity to ensure peace before and after 2012 general elections.
He said the common goal for every Ghanaian should be to keep the country united and make it a great and prosperous one.
Dr Ameer said the key to maintain peace ahead of this year’s elections was for politicians to desist from the intemperate language that could ignite tension and confusion in the country, stressing ‘’ it is crucial to watch our tongue’’.
Most Rev Palmer-Buckle underscored the need for effective education of the electorate, particularly, the youth and advised them to refrain from attempts by politicians to engage them to do their dirty work for them.