Religious Discrimination: Christian Council suggests court action for aggrieved Moslem groups

The Christian Council of Ghana says government must stop issuing threats of sanctions to mission schools and allow the Peace Council to resolve alleged issues of religious discriminations in schools.

 The Council is also asking aggrieved Moslem groups and other religious sects who feel discriminated against by regulations in educational institutions to proceed to court for redress.

General Secretary of the Council Rev Kwabena Opuni-Frimpong insisted that alleged religious discriminations are human right issues which can best be resolved by the courts and not through threats of sanctions.

“People are getting ahead of the Peace Council…Now there are directives from government and the directives are coming with sanctions but we are dealing with human rights issues. If somebody complains about his human rights issues, normally one goes to court,” he said

He cited the example by students of the SDA who went to court after they accused some tertiary institutions of trampling on their religious rights.

He did not understand why the SDA would be told to go to court on an alleged issue of religious discrimination and yet when a similar issue crops up with another religious group, government begins to issue threats of sanctions.

Rev Opuni-Frimpong said the Council does not appreciate threats of sanctions by government and its spokespersons on a rather sensitive matter.

Moslem groups are alleging that Moslem students in mission schools are forced to attend church services against their will and their religion.

They see such compulsion as an affront to the religion they hold so dear to their hearts.

In the Western Region, some Moslems took the matter up on the streets in a peaceful demonstration to demand that their religious rights must be respected.

Government got into the fray by issuing a number of statements condemning the alleged religious discriminations.

“We consider it not only as a religious intolerance, but also a breach of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, for Muslim students to be forced to take off their hijabs in schools. In much the same it is unacceptable for Muslim students to be forced to attend church services in schools, especially when it seeks to introduce those students to a religion, which they may not subscribe to, nor be adherents of,” the Communications Minister Edward Omane Boamah said in a statement.

“Heads of institutions, including schools and workplaces, found to be contravening this basic constitutional right would be liable to sanctions” he threatened.

Subsequently  President John Mahama  in his State of the Nation Address reiterated similar sentiments and so has the Education Minister and her deputy.

But the Catholic Bishop’s Conference was not enthused with the posturing by government and issued a statement, insisting that they will not be intimidated by the unwarranted threats of sanctions by government.

“We wish to assure Heads of our Catholic Educational Institutions to remain resolute and not feel unduly intimidated by threat of sanctions.

We expect our Heads to continue to manage our schools in ways and practices that are in conformity with our Catholic identity and mission,” the conference reacted.

It appears the Christian Council has taken the matter a notch higher asking the Moslem groups to allow the Peace Council to resolve the matter amicably or proceed to court if they feel discriminated against.

Rev Opuni-Frimpong told host of Joy FM’s Super Morning Show Kojo Yankson, Wednesday, just as Moslems are protesting alleged trampled rights some  groups equally have rights which are guaranteed by the constitution and must be protected by the state.

“The National Peace Council must be allowed to handle the issues. We must handle the issue in such a way that we don’t create fear and panic,” he stated.

Meanwhile, Lawyer Ace Ankomah would rather the Ministry and the religious groups involved sit and resolve the impasse amicably rather than proceeding to court for redress.

“It is not everything that goes to go to court,” he said.

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