The Ministry of Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs has facilitated the travelling of 50 Christian pilgrims to Israel.
The 50 pilgrims, expected to leave the shores of Ghana via Ethiopian airlines formed the first batch of about 700 Christians expected to embark on a journey to the Holy land this year.
Among them were members of different denominations including the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC), Assemblies of God, Ghana, Presbyterian Church of Ghana, Methodist and Catholic Church.
Speaking at a send-off ceremony at the Aviation Social Centre in Accra on Friday, the sector Minister, Samuel Kofi Dzamesi said government had helped more than 1000 Christian pilgrims to Israel since 2017.
“In 2017 we sent about 200 people while in 2018, 400 and in 2019 we sent over 500 people to Israel,” he stated.
He indicated that since 2017, all the people who had embarked on the pilgrimage had returned adding if anyone embarks on the journey with the intention of seeking asylum would be arrested and jailed.
Mr Dzamesi said the trip would last for a week while the next batch of 50 will leave Accra on February 29.
“In the month of May and August 400 Christians will leave to Israel with the rest later in the year,” he said.
He said the pilgrimage was an agreement between the two governments and therefore anyone who wanted to go on pilgrimage in Israel was screened and vetted by the ministry.
Mr Dzamesi said this year more than 200 people applied to embark on the journey but after the screening only 50 people qualified to go for the trip.
He said the screening was done by personnel from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ghana Immigration Service (GIS), Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), Ghana Police Service and the sector ministry.
“Persons eligible to embark on the journey were Christians, gainfully employed, married people,” he added saying that the government doe not sponsor anyone to go on the journey but added that some pilgrims were being sponsored by their Members of Parliament and churches.
The Minister said for several years various governments had tried to organise Christian pilgrimages, but was not successful because they did not understand how to go about it.
According to Mr Dzamesi it was necessary to start small and not big adding that “ we have been successful with it because the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo decided to add religious affairs to the Chieftaincy ministry.”
He urged the pilgrims to be good ambassadors and live by the rules and regulations that would be given them.
BY JEMIMA ESINAM KUATSINU