Violent extremism: Catholic Bishops’ Conference promotes peace and cohesive society

The Ghana Catholic Bishops' Conference is embarking on a project to promote peace and build a cohesive society in response to the looming threats of violent extremism in the West African Sub-region. The Conference with funding from the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), has been training religious leaders on inter-religious dialogue as a strategy to counter violent extremism. It is part of an initiative dubbed, 'Sahel Peace Initiative' which is also being implemented by Bishops of four other countries including Mali, Cote D'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Niger. As part of the initiative, a second cohort of religious leaders have been trained at Ejisu in the Ashanti Region following a similar training held in Tamale in the Nothern Region. Participants were drawn from the Inter-Religious Dialogue Commission of the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Cape Coast and Kumasi. They included representatives from the three main Isamic sects, Protestant Christian Churches, Charismatic and Pentecostal Churches, and the Catholic Ch urch. The Reverend Father Michael Quaicoe, Head of Governance, Justice and Peace, National Catholic Secretariat, Ghana Catholic Bishops' Conference, said the training was part of the church's strategy to mobilise religious leaders as a united front against extremist views and actions. He said every religion inherently sought to promote peace, hence, enhancing the understanding of religious leaders on peace and forging a network of leaders would build a fortress that could not be easily exploited in the name of religion. 'All those who call themselves extremists are people who exploits religious sentiments as a vehicle so if we are able to help our people to understand that we have a role to play to overcome it, then we would have done our bit to empower not only our minds but also our hearts to fight anything that is inimical to our unity and common purposes and prosperity of our people,' he observed. Dr. Zakaria Zaka, the Lead Facilitator for the training, said Muslims and Christians were more united tha n they knew because they share a lot in common as far as religion was concerned. 'We have one Almighty God, we believe that God has created heaven and earth, we believe in charity and fasting, so, the concept is almost the same. The only difference is how we practice our religion,' the Islamic Scholar pointed out. He underlined the importance of working together as religious leaders with common needs for health, education, and social infrastructure. The Sahel Peace Initiative which is the Catholic Church's response to the unprecedented violence being meted out to civilians in the Sahel Region, is adopting country specific strategies based on local contexts. In Ghana, the strategy is to tackle the spillover of insecurity from the Sahel with funding and technical support from the CRS. Source: Ghana News Agency