The Words of the Osei Family
Letters were sent to Ambassadors for Peace from various religions and religious bodies within the region inviting them to participate in an inter-religious forum on the UN International Day of Peace, September 21. Major religions expected were Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity; invitations were also sent to smaller religious groups. The program was held at the African Regent Hotel, Airport West in Accra.
The official theme was: "The Role of Religion in Peacebuilding." Our aim was to bridge the gaps between the various religions and religious groups in the country through interactive discussions and invite comments about UPF's proposal for an inter-religious council at the United Nations.
In welcoming the guests, the MC for the morning session, the West African Director of Religious Youth Service, Alhaji T.S. Kerim, remarked on the significance of the day as it coincided with the birth of the first President of Ghana, the late Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. He explained the purpose of the forum to integrate ideas from all the religious groups in the nation. With this remark, he introduced the Chairman of the occasion, Srivas Das, the National Secretary of the Hare Krishna Movement in Ghana.
The Chairman noted that while it was a day of celebration of peace, it is also important to think about how to help the UN achieve the desired dream for peace. He praised the UN for its its efforts, noting that it focuses mainly on physical approaches to peace and doesn't emphasize the spiritual essence of human beings. Hence, the UPF call for an inter-religious council is timely.
After a video presentation about the UFP Founder, UPF-Ghana Secretary General, Mrs. Helen M. Osei, gave a moving reading from one of his Peace Messages about the mission of Ambassadors for Peace. People were touched by his tireless work for peace and responded with applause.
After a break, the proposal for an inter-religious council at the UN was explained by the national leader of UPF, Rev. Itia D. Tegha. He urged people to draw upon the positive elements of each religion. "We should discard the notions that point to a certain religion as bad and come together to appreciate one another's religion," he added.
When the presentation was over, dignitaries in the audience were acknowledged; among them were the former First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Freddie W.A. Blay, and a retired Deputy Commissioner of Police.
The 40 participants were divided into four discussion groups. It was quite interesting to observe that even people hearing about the UPF for the first time made very useful contributions to the group discussions. After 30 minutes, the Chairman brought the discussion to a close and participants proceeded to a buffet lunch.
The MC for the afternoon session, Mr. Donald Cog S. (CEO of Equity and Equity Limited, Accra), called for each group's report to be submitted. The following are representative comments:
"No religion in the Holy Book spoke of conflict. It was those who practiced it who lacked understanding. Therefore, people should be taught at home." Haj. Abdullah Tetteh, Ghana Muslim Mission
"The way forward is to add UPFs education into our national educational curriculum. Student leaders at the tertiary level as well as national leaders should all be involved. The family system should be reinforced, promoting good relationships between parents and children, so children can be brought up well. Parents should not warn or bar children from associating with people from other religious backgrounds. The sharing of ideas from all sectors will promote peace. This could also be done via movies." Jeremiah Salifu, National President, Private Universities Students Association of Ghana
"People seem to point at others' faults, but efforts should be made to respect each other's beliefs; i.e., religious peace education should be encouraged beginning from the primary school level." Mr. B.A. Courage
"Not all people have gone through school or are educated. Market women and all other people should be reached out to at their various societies, and organizations should educate them. People should be educated that the final judge is God, so they should respect and tolerate others for what they believe in for the sake of world peace." Rev. James Aidoo, Unificationism
"Certain principles that are considered sacred in other religions, i.e., 'a tooth for a tooth,' could be changed because they do not help promote peace." Mr. Paul Ayivi
"All children of God have different backgrounds/understandings; hence, religious leaders should come together and help us understand so that we can co-exist." Pastor Edward Sosu, Unificationism
Participants unanimously decided to form a Ghana Inter-religious Peace Council that includes men and women as well as youth and elders. A common interest is in how to transmit spiritual values to the younger generation and help them learn the ways of peace beginning in early childhood. Sports were suggested as a tool for fostering peace. People were encouraged to be role models of respect wherever they go.