Few questions come to mind as I try to address the above issue. What is it about the 2020 polls that needs the attention of the Church? There have been seven successful elections conducted in the fourth republic of Ghana (1996-2016); and what is going to be different about the 2020 election that will warrant intensive peace campaign by the Church?
I define the Church as the community of believers in the Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, sent to redeem humankind from sin and death. The goal of the redemptive work of the Lord is to ensure that peace prevails in the world. I see the Church sharing in this redemptive mission, the peace mission.
Herein, I see the mandate and capability of the Church, with the help of Jesus and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to deliver the fruits of the seed of peace sown in the world at the dawn of creation by God the Father.
The Church or Christianity in Ghana is a force to reckon with. According to the Government of Ghana 2010 statistics, Christianity formed about 71 percent of the population in Ghana. The Church has always spoken about peace and other issues bordering on social cohesion in Ghana through the various Councils and Ecumenical Commissions, notably Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council, Ghana Christian Council and Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference.
Annually, and periodically when the need be, communiques were sent by the Ghana Christian Council and the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference to the Government and the People of Ghana addressing pressing issues that needed attention. Election time was no different.
The National Peace Council has a strong representation from the Christian Churches and, presently, has Most Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Asante as its Chairman.
There is no doubt that the Church plays a unique role, with the collaboration of other faith groups, especially, the Islamic Council, in shaping and influencing the moral conscience of Ghanaians.
The events leading to 2020 General Election have already caught the attention of the Church. In the minds of many Ghanaians, such issues as the compilation of the New Voters Register which has polarise the nation and the keen contest between the flag bearer of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), His Excellency John Mahama (the former President), and the flag bearer of the New Patriotic Party, His Excellency Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo (the Incumbent President of the Republic of Ghana), both seeking their second term, evoke electoral tension that could disturb the peace of our country.
But for their teaming supporters and myriad of party faithful, the two honourable and peace-loving personalities who are ardent Christians could ensure the peace and stability of Ghana, our motherland.
Their running mates, one, a soft-spoken and a hard working Professor, mother and a good Christian and the other, a humorous conversationalist, an avid Economist, a good husband and father, and a devout Muslim, are equally respectable and could also be entrusted with the peace of the nation.
But they are members of their respective political parties with strong following. I do not intend to ignore the power of other political parties who are equally important in the promotion and sustenance of our esteemed democratic dispensation.
It is for the sake of space that I have concentrated on the NDC and NPP, who in the 4th republican era have a higher following.
It is the principal mandate and the mission of the Church to proclaim peace. This is given to it by Jesus Christ. When Jesus sent the Seventy-two others ahead of him, among other things, he instructed them: “when you enter a house, first say, Peace to this house.” Luke 10:5. In the conciliar decree Ad Gentes Divinitus of the Vatican II documents, article 2 & 3, it is clearly stated: The Church is by its very nature missionary, since it has its origin in the mission…of the Son.
And the Son is sent as God in human flesh to effect peace and communion with God and genuine union among men and women. Thus Church, tracing her mission from the mission of Christ Jesus, sees the proclamation of peace, not as an option, but as an integral part of her being. To fail to proclaim peace among men and women is to lose her identity.
One would be tempted to say that since majority of Ghanaians are Christians and Muslims, there is no need to expect disharmony, rancour, and strife before, during and after the forth coming elections. Many Christians and Muslims visit the churches and mosques at least every Sunday and Friday, respectively, to worship and hear messages and sermons tailored for virtuous and good moral lives.
It must, however, be noted that the same Christian or Muslim is also a human being that has myriad of conflicting desires and wants that need to be regulated; principal among them being the desires for power and self-recognition.
These desires are so strong that, if not tamed by the Christian virtues of humility and mutual respect, they could ignite conflict, disunity, and mistrust.
Our democratic dispensation which extols ‘the winner takes all’ is the fertile ground for unhealthy competition. Even though there seems to be no clear-cut ideological difference between the evolved tenants of the two main dominant political parties, the NDC and NPP, due to their efforts, over time, to concentrate on infrastructural and human development (pro people policies), their method and fiscal principles alone could generate intense competition.
Promises upon promises, most of which are beyond our wildest dreams, are made to out-shine the other. It takes a great mind to see through the various manifesto promises to know which ones make economic sense and are achievable.
The contest of ideas which usually are meant to aid the citizens identify the feasible from the unfeasible, if not managed well, could breed lies and maligning. It takes a person with deep sense of Christian virtues of honesty, integrity, and love to resist such temptation.
Even the most ardent Christian or devout Muslim, influenced by the desire for power at all cost, could be a prey to these negative desires. I strongly believe that our nation has reached this competitive era. Thus, the need for the Church to intensify the peace campaign. The campaign constitutes the preaching of the socio-religious values which lead to unity and stability.
The peace campaign should permeate the arena of social media. There is no doubt that the one who takes control of the social media, influences the conscience of many.
I salute the National Peace Council, with its able Chairman Rev. Prof. Asante, for engaging the media in October 2019 when he said that ‘it is important to maximise the media’s huge influence in the shaping of public opinion and articulation, to sanitise political discourse and promote responsible behaviour for the common good.’
I therefore have the view that the peace campaign could be effectively waged if the Church intensifies her effort to win the media space and permeate it with the values of decency, truth, mutual respect, and love.
The writer is: Rev. Fr. Francis Lemaire
St Paul’s Catholic Seminary, Accra.