close_menu
close-popup
image-popup

Available languages:
close-popup
Paypal
Carta di credito
donate
Christians in the Muslim World

Islam in Ghana: between positive signs and ambiguous signals

Card. Turkson

Interview with H. E. Card Peter Turkson by Roberto Fontolan

 

 

First country in West Africa to gain independence (1957), Ghana has been spared the unrest and horrors that so many other nations on the continent have had to endure. Instead it has experienced a relative but carefully protected calm, one without easy illusions.

 

Events in Kenya, where Ghana's president skilfully intervened, preparing the ground for Kofi Annan's mission, are evidence of that. In some situations confessional conflicts play a role alongside tribalism and underdevelopment.

 

Such points are part of a conversation with H. E. Peter Turkson, the Ghanaian cardinal who was recently elected chairman of the Bishops' Conference of West Africa, a new organisation that brings together the region's Francophone and Anglophone Episcopal bodies. "Integration is a wise decision," the cardinal said. "Out of it a clearer and more incisive action of shared apostolate will come."

 

In an intervention you made at an Oasis conference, you described Islam in Ghana as something enigmatic. What did you mean?

 

 

I meant to say that there are positive signs but also facts that make one wonder, the two existing side by side. Let us starts from the latter. It is clear that there is foreign influence on Islam in my country. There are certain nations that operate through NGOs and social and cultural initiatives. It is fair to ask ourselves what is at the bottom of these programmes. Another element of uncertainty is constituted by two meetings proposed by the Minority Islam Organisation, a name which suggests that some Muslims at least do not accept their minority status in a society that has a non-Muslim majority. Lest we forget, according to the last official census, Christians represented 65 per cent of the population against 18 per cent for Muslims, who claim however that they are actually closer to 30 per cent.

 

There are also issues relating to everyday life like mixed marriages in which children are automatically raised in the Islamic faith or the offer of economic help to people on hard times in exchange for "conversion" to Islam. Undeniably there is a Rush hour for God

 

in Ghana; evangelical groups fill any free space in the city, whereas thanks to a Muslim "push", in every village mosques and minarets are going up, expressing a recently-found need for visibility and self-assertion .

 

Undeniably there is a Rush hour for God

 

in Ghana; evangelical groups fill any free space in the city, whereas thanks to a Muslim "push", in every village mosques and minarets are going up, expressing a recently-found need for visibility and self-assertion .

 

 

And what about the positive signs?

 

 

Collaboration is good at an institutional level, in venues like the Peace Conference and the Government Council. In both organisations Christian and Muslim representatives do collaborate for the consolidation of peace in the country. For example, they assumed the role of observers during the elections.

 

 

Frequently, there are opportunities to meet and talk in an atmosphere of mutual respect and attention to one another, at all levels. Our people's tradition of co-existence remains strong. Our families and villages know very well what religious pluralism means. And our Christian schools admit Muslim pupils without any fuss. It is because of this history of laid-back closeness that I am concerned about the recent need for self-assertiveness.

 

In light of this, what is your opinion about Christianity in your country?

 

 

I think we must change the way we introduce the faith. By that I mean that the catechesis is not enough because it does not touch the heart. Believers may call themselves Christian but are not likely to experience real change within themselves. That's why a new sense of affiliation is not created; ethnic ties remain stronger than Christian ties. Once I heard someone say that "blood is thicker than the baptismal water." These words are awful, especially coming from an influential Christian leader. For us tribalism is scourge. Or rather, perhaps you become Christian through your tribe, but people continue to find greater strength in that affiliation than in being part of the Church. In this sense we must acknowledge that although the missionaries have done a lot, they have not done enough.

 

What is the method of this "introduction to the faith"?

 

 

It is the usual method, which we see at work in the Acts of the Apostles. God's word changes people's heart through a journey of conversion, witness, and community life. It is the method of the Catholic faith, personal and universal at the same time.

Stay up to date: sign up for our newsletter

I authorize the use of my data after agreeing to the privacy-policy

For insights and analysis subscribe to our biannual journal