My tolerance message for 2017

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The year 2016 is coming to an end and we shall soon be entering 2017. The year 2016 gave the Ghanaian an environment of peace and wellbeing although some demonstrations saw the falling of an eye and the beating of the Let My Vote Count Alliance (LMVCA).

It was also a year of recovery for Ghana. Ghanaians recovered from the terror that enveloped the nation when a section of the population discredited the electoral register that brought the NPP into power in the 2016 election.

We are grateful to God for our success as a nation. Many African countries are yet to enjoy a fraction of the peaceful and serene environment we are blessed with.

The 21st century Africa has witnessed a lot of political, ethnic and religious conflicts. Ivory Coast was torn between the Gbagbos and the Outaras.

The Central African Republic saw the Muslims and the Christians on each other and Nigeria is battling with democracy and theocracy. The newly created South Sudan could not hold it self together and Egypt and Libya have no good story to tell.

Outside Africa we have witnessed the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Israel and Palestine and the hot fire in Syria. May the showers of peace pour down on us all.

It is also worth noting that the 21st century itself started with a major war that threatened the world peace. It was the 9/11 war between some supposed Al-Qaida members and the United States of America.

A war fought between the most advanced nation on our planet and a group of cave dwellers who see themselves as freedom fighters. The end result was devastating for all of us. I pray that we see no more war to the end of time.

This 9/11 war prompted the then President Bush to divide nations into “with us and against the terrorist” and “on the side of the terrorist”.

Captain Osama Bin Laden had also announced that ‘the world is now clearly divided into two – the world of followers of Islam against that of the infidels and unbelievers’.

The Dove World Outreach Center (a non-denominational charismatic christian church) led by Pastor Terry Jones set out to burn the Quran in the open. They were preaching exclusivism. It is to this subject of exclusivism that I turn to for my tolerance message for the year 2017.

The Ghanaian population is constituted by a diverse ethnic and religious groups that has survived turbulent times and movements such as the ‘mate me ho movement’ and the boycott of elections in 1992.

Ghana has also survived the transfer of political power from one party to the other and the prophesies of doom prophets who predict war in every election year.

Our ability to coexist in harmony is driven by the culture of tolerance that we have inherited from our fore fathers. A collection of some few unguarded words can throw the entire nation into the unforeseen. I pray that we do not hear words like “yɛn akanfo” and “kill the ewes” anymore.

On the religious front, I sometimes wonder if religious conflict was ever known to our fore fathers. In a single house hold or a village, there could be a number of gods serving the same or different purposes.

The gods of our fore fathers coexisted with other gods without any trouble. Is there in these a culture of tolerance that we can learn from?

The Christian Bible preaches “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” in John 14: 6.

The Quranic equivalent of this is in Suratul Al-Imran (3:85) - “and whoever desires other than Islam as religion, never will it be accepted of him and he in the hereafter will be among the losers”.

In the sacred scripture of the Buddhist Dhammapada 254, we read that “outside the Buddha teaching there is no saint”.

The Harikrishna in Ghana read Srimad Bhagavatan. In the 12th verse of the 11th chapter, it is written that “I Krishna am the goal of the wise man and I am the way”.

Where do our traditional believes stand?

According to the 2010 population census, only about 5.2% of Ghanaians practice traditional African faith. The Christians and Muslims constitute 89.8% yet they have already inherited the culture of tolerance of our fore fathers before the advent of Islam and Christianity in Africa.

Religious exclusivism has already contributed to a number of conflicts around the world. It has sometimes led to the partitioning of countries as in the case of Ireland between Catholics and Protestants, India (Hindus) and Pakistan (Muslims) and as well as Serbia (Christians) and Kosovo (Muslims). Is Nigeria moving in the same direction? The most populous African country is on fire, let’s pray for peace.

We must learn to evangelize (invite others into our faith) with high sense of respect and maturity. We also need to re-strategise when we realize that the Eidul Adha meat of the Muslim is the sacred god of the Hindus – the cow. That is what will show the beauty of love in our faith.

We also pray not to see the repeatition of THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST by Martin Scores, the SATANIC VERSUS by Salman Rushdi and the pronouncement of Pastor Terry Jones. Sometimes a word of condemnation from major leaders around the world can heal the wounds caused by Salamn, martin and Terry.

Sometimes too we need to be open minded to understand others from their own perspective.

Some few years back, a self-appointed Ghanaian bishop was accused of having a sexual relation with the wife of a co-pastor.

The saga was aggressively publicized on a certain radio station. To protect his reputation, the bishop organized some church members to raid the FM station. A lot of properties were damaged and the host on the radio program was badly injured.

The bishop was subsequently arrested and put behind the bars. The following day another journalist sneaked into the church of this bishop to observe the mood of the members.

He was attacked and beaten. To the congregation, this journalist was only an antichrist who has come to disgrace the cross. Sometimes, one man’s meat is another man’s poison.

In a similar manner, some Muslims at times justify the activities of Islam related terrorist groups. It is our responsibility to collectively condemn such acts. But there are times when someone’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

Ghanaians must cultivate the habit of positive thinking and equal respect for all. It is important to recognize that every single soul plays an important role that contributes to the development of our nation.

It is sometimes said that our mothers provide us with water, firewood and babies. But we also need to recognize that it was the man who dug the well, cut down the big tree and fertilized the ovary. Every Ghanaian is important.

As we enter 2017, let’s pray for and remember one another. On the 7th of January, let’s see the flag of Ghana above that of the NPP and the NDC.

On the dining table to celebrate the New Year lets pray for peace, unity, health and prosperity.

Let us also pray for the farmer who planted the crops, the driver who brought the crops from the farm, the cook who added some spices to improve the taste and the carpenter who made the dining table.

May the Almighty accept our prayers.

Ameen.

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Wahib Adam Hassan.

(wabshassan@gmail.com)