– Is Prez Mahama right?
On Friday October 26, 2012, President John Mahama called on school authorities to end the practice that in some high schools Muslim students are forced to observe the Christian faith because it infringes the right to liberty. of worship consecrated by the constitution. The president’s statement on this issue, which exists in both public and private schools, drew negative reactions from some Ghanaweb readers. Some people have defended the practice and that âif you go to Rome, do what the Romans are doingâ.
I find it deeply astonishing that a practice like this, which belittles Christian worship, still finds support among some Christians. For any Christian, thinking that it is right to force non-Christians to attend religious services borders on ignorance of the purpose of worship and disrespect for Christian worship. Forcing Muslim students to worship in church violates their human rights, imposes psychological torture on young people, is completely at odds with true Christian principles, and Jesus Christ will never agree to this being inflicted on a human being. How then can some Christians be so wrong? Are we really saying that God would like to see a young boy or girl sitting in his house of worship upset, angry and depressed and yet singing words of praise with contempt? Letâs think again.
We must note that one of the most basic and compelling tenets of worship and religious expression is that it comes from the heart. And forcing Muslim students to worship against their free will does not pass this test. It is psychological and immoral violence. No deity of any prescription or description (whether from the point of view of Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism or Islam) will be happy to have a worshiper with strong reserve or horror. This is exactly what happens when you force Muslims to worship in the Christian way. Do we seriously think that Jesus Christ, a unique embodiment of humility and tolerance, would appreciate such a practice whereby a young child or teenager sits in the church angry and tries to understand why such injustice is done to him? was imposed? God and Christ will not appreciate such worshipers. Why then do we do it? The answer lies either in our following the practice of the colonial church, which used bullying in mission schools to convert African children, or we are following the common error of organized religion. A common problem with organized religion is that it often loses its moral purpose and instead directs its attention to power and control. It then becomes political, inhuman, insignificant and detached from the real issues of humanity. This is exactly what we saw when people supported the coercion of Muslim students. They stopped thinking about the essence of Christian worship and began to think about the politics of religion, which is about power. How can we be so ignorant of the essence of worship to really think so? In my experience with other religions, worship is not taken lightly. Most religions, including Islam and Hinduism, would not force people to come to the mosque or temple if they did not have faith in what is going to happen there. It is therefore strange that our school principals, pastors and chaplains belittle Christian service in this way. What is the point of having a disgruntled young person in a religious service? I wonder if our principals and chaplains have thought of this problem that way. If they haven’t, then they should and make sure they change because the only feelings these Muslim students have when coerced are aversion, injustice and maybe hate. . Let us not strive, in our ignorance of what Christian worship is, to create negative attitudes among non-Christians. President John Mahama is right, because Ghana’s secular constitution guarantees the right of religious expression and this extends to the fact that public educational institutions must ensure that all students are free to worship. Other schools supported by Christians or Muslims, which receive government funding, should have this principle enshrined in the culture of their schools. This is necessary for two reasons: First, the school is a learning institution and not a church or a mosque. If a person walks into a church, temple, or mosque, they will have no reason to believe that they should be allowed to worship in a totally different way than the building was designed for. However, schools are not places of worship. Rather, they are centers of learning and it would make more sense to separate religious practice from education. Thus, extending worship in schools beyond what is required by the curriculum is inappropriate. Second, there has been genuine religious tolerance in Ghana for hundreds of years now and there is hardly any family where you will not find siblings or extended family relationships believing in different faiths – traditional religion, Christianity. or islam. Most of us don’t think badly of our family members who believe in a different faith and we must maintain this tolerance. However, in recent times it has become quite obvious that many of us who have become Christians or Muslims feel that our brothers and sisters who follow our traditional religions should give up and follow Christianity or Islam. This is to a large extent wishful thinking and absurd, especially when we remember that many of us are the first Christians or Muslims in our family or that a generation ago our ancestors were traditional worshipers.
Do we think Christianity or Islam is better than traditional African practices? The answer is in our hearts and minds; a matter of faith. In other words, this personal conviction of the superiority of Christianity or Islam is purely subjective. What I mean is, if we are ignorant enough to think that by forcing people to worship we will make the whole world Christian or Muslim, we are only tickling each other. And to know that we tickle each other, just look at India and China, which represent nearly 50% of the world’s population and yet less than 5% believe in Christianity and Islam. I personally believe that if you are a director or a priest and force young people to worship Christ just because you have authority over them, God will not be impressed because they sing the praises in a state of trauma, reserve and of shyness. Back to our senses.
Dr Ahmed Bawa Kuyini (For CEVS-Ghana, Tamale).