Catholic Bishops Conference has issued a strongly worded statement in which it describes the President’s threat of sanctions against religious discrimination in schools as unwarranted.
“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”, a statement said.
President John Mahama during his 2015 State of the Nation Address weighed into perceptions expressed by some Muslim groups that their religious rights are not being respected.
Some WAEC officials in the Western Region were said to have asked candidates taking passport-size photos during registration for the exams to remove their headscarves or hijabs because they concealed features including the forehead, nose and chin.
Some Muslim groups in Takoradi in the Western Region protested against what they described as discrimination against Muslims in Christian schools.
The President told the nation that “it is wrong under our constitution for Muslim students to be compelled to attend church services or for Christian students to be compelled to attend Muslim congregational prayers…..Heads of Institutions must note this for strict compliance. Appropriate sanctions will be taken against any head of institution who acts contrary to the constitutional provisions of our country”.
Catholic leaders believe this statement constitutes a threat.
He argued that students have a choice between Christian-based schools and Islamic ones. If they want to attend a school that does not fit their faith, they should be ready to abide by its regulations, he explained.
“Certain catholic traditions must be observed the same way if you go to an Islamic school, traditions will be observed,” he maintained.
He noted that the Ghana Education Service (GES) after the President’s statement has also issued a directive that all students irrespective of their religious beliefs must attend morning devotions in missionary schools.
“We are trying to encourage our students notwithstanding their faith to come together to worship and it brings about national unity. If a Muslim takes part in morning worship it doesn’t mean the person it being forced to convert to Christianity,” the Public Relations officer of the GES, Charles Parker Allotey explained.
In view of the “contradiction” between the GES statement and President Mahama’s “threat” to sanction school heads who force down the schools religious practices on students, the clergyman called for dialogue to resolve the matter.
“One party cannot just come and issue directives without consulting the other. Government is only one stakeholder,” President of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference Most Rev. Joseph Osei-Bonsu said to Joy News.