General News of Sunday, 8 March 2015
The Ghana Trades Union Congress (TUC) says it is disturbed by the rising religious and ethnic tensions in the country, describing the development as unfortunate.
“This unfortunate development is occurring in a climate of difficult economic and social conditions and at a time when such tensions are having dire consequences in many societies across the world, including our West African neighbourhood,” a statement signed by the Secretary General of the TUC, Mr Kofi Asamoah, said.
The statement, released after the 75th regular meeting of the Steering Committee of the TUC, observed that “for over half-a-century since Independence and even before, we have lived peacefully and harmoniously together as Ghanaians, irrespective of our religious diversities.”
“In our various residential abodes, educational institutions and workplaces, Ghanaians of all religious opinions and persuasions live and work together in mutual respect to the admiration of many across the world,” it said.
The statement comes on the heels of growing religious tensions in the country, culminating in a section of the Muslim community demonstrating in the Western Region last month to express their displeasure about issues of discrimination and Muslim students and women being denied the right to exercise their faith.
To calm tensions, the government issued a statement calling on heads of educational institutions to allow female students to wear the hijab, a head cover that is seen in the Islamic faith as promoting the dignity of women.
The government further warned that it would sanction heads of institutions who failed to heed the directive as it amounted to flouting a basic constitutional right.
The directive did not sit well with the Christian Council and the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference, which criticised the government for issuing the statement instead of building consensus on the issue.
Although the Christian Council, the Catholic Bishops Conference and the Muslim community are calling for dialogue to resolve the matter, critics of the religious bodies say their actions were rather inflaming passion.
Others are even proposing a ban on religious activities in all schools as is the case in most developed countries to curtail the disagreements. In most schools in Europe and the United States of America, religion is a forbidden practice.
On the political front, thousands of people, including leaders from across the political divide, defied the sun in Accra to march against tribal politics in the country last Wednesday.
The TUC statement said “the Steering Committee of the TUC finds the rising religious and ethnic tensions unnecessary, uncharacteristic of the spirit of consultations and dialogue we have used to resolve difficulties that have emerged in our relations and a threat to our mutual coexistence and collective survival.”
The TUC, therefore, called on the religious institutions to revert to dialogue to resolve any challenges.
The statement also had a word of advice for politicians: “We further call on politicians to refrain from inflaming passions and work together with the affected groups to bring a lasting solution to the challenges confronting their relations.”
“We should avoid any action or utterances that give an opportunity for extremist elements in the different communities or persuasions to exploit in pursuit of their sectarian agenda.”
While urging workers to uphold the spirit of unity and solidarity and to spread it among all Ghanaians, irrespective of their ethnicity or religion, it also urged the media and social commentators to be measured and be circumspect in their reportage.