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GHANA-CATHOLIC-BISHOPS-CONFERENCE

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GHANA-CATHOLIC-BISHOPS-CONFERENCE Powered By Docstoc
					   A COMMUNIQUÉ ISSUED BY THE GHANA CATHOLIC
 BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE AT THE END OF THEIR ANNUAL
  PLENARY ASSEMBLY HELD AT GOASO IN THE BRONG
                 AHAFO REGION

                FROM 5TH – 15TH NOVEMBER 2008

Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our
Lord to you all (cf. 2 Tim. 1:2).

PREAMBLE
We, the Catholic Bishops of Ghana, have held our annual meeting at
Goaso in the Brong Ahafo Region under the theme, Peace-Building in
Ghana. After study, prayer and meditation on the theme, we would like
to share the following reflections on peace with you, our compatriots.

CHRIST, THE PRINCE OF PEACE
In a few weeks, Christians all over the world will be celebrating
Christmas, the feast of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.
Within this same period we in Ghana will have our presidential and
parliamentary elections. It is the wish of all Ghanaians that our country
will enjoy peace before, during and after the period of elections. It is
our hope that we shall share in the peace that Christ brings at Christmas.
Christ preached peace and worked for peace. In one of his discourses he
told his disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do
not give to you as the world gives” (Jn. 14:27). Christ bequeathed this
mission of peace-building to us his disciples. As we approach the
elections, we must intensify our prayer for and work towards the
realisation of peace in our dear country.

QUEST FOR PEACE
The quest for peace is universal. With Pope John XXIII (in his
encyclical Pacem in Terris, “Peace on Earth”) we observe that human
beings, throughout the world and throughout the ages, have longed for
and sought after peace. If there is one single thing that all Ghanaians,
and indeed all human beings, seek to possess, it is peace. Indeed,
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everything we do, whether as workers, farmers, fishermen, traditional
rulers, teachers, professors or business men and women, is in pursuit of
peace and wellbeing; and yet nothing has eluded human beings more
than these.

WHAT IS PEACE?
Peace is not simply the absence of war. It is the fruit of right ordering of
things with which God has invested human society and which must be
actualised by human society. Peace is a tranquility of order in
accordance with the will of God. It is, therefore, a contradiction of the
highest order to want to achieve peace through violence. We must also
realise that there can be no lasting peace without justice. The two
themes are inseparable.

One of the chief characteristics of justice is to give to everyone what is
their due. Any situation in which a human being is dominated, exploited
or suppressed is unjust. Often all of us provoke injustice without our
knowing or admitting it. We should, therefore, constantly examine our
consciences to find out if we have not been, to some extent, guilty of
acts of injustice. This exercise helps us to discover and stay on the path
of peace; it also helps to undertake appropriate action to achieve justice
and peace in our communities. The daily news about wars, strifes,
hostilities, hatred, etc., in the world would seem to indicate that peace is
beyond the reach of humankind. But this is not so.

FACTORS THAT MILITATE AGAINST PEACE
Many factors militate against peace. One of them is injustice, which
tends to breed violence and appears in various forms. If we do not treat
all Ghanaians, and indeed all human beings, as our brothers and sisters,
irrespective of their religion, colour, sex, age, origin, academic
attainment, status of work, there is injustice and there is disruption of
peace. To look down upon people of other tribes, to seek political and
traditional domination of other ethnic groups, no matter how small, to
dispossess people of their land, to refuse to give just wages to enable
workers to live decent lives, all constitute injustice. When we maltreat
our children and house-helps, or our spouses, that is violence. To be a
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lazy worker too is injustice. Bribery and corruption, favouritism and
nepotism, extortion and intimidation, lying and intrigues that we have
talked against many times in our communiqués and pastoral letters are
all seeds of injustice that can grow into huge trees of violence. Indeed,
any situation of suppression is inherently explosive and sooner or later
can erupt into violence



MULTI-PARTY DEMOCRACY IN GHANA
Since independence, we have had one or other form of democratic
governance. In this system, two or more parties, during the time of
elections, canvass for votes in order to serve the common good. Parties
are not ashamed to do anything and everything in their power, fair or
foul, to win elections. This unfortunate and negative political tradition
in our country stems from the wrong notion that the winner takes all – a
situation which makes the losing party believe that its interests are not
served.

CAUSE FOR CONCERN
Against this background, we, the Ghana Catholic Bishops, are very
much concerned about the prevailing political atmosphere, as we prepare
for the forthcoming elections. Certain pronouncements and actions by
highly-placed Ghanaians do not promote peace. Rather they are creating
fear, rancour, mistrust, bitterness and resentment. The spate of recent
political violence in parts of the country – Sankore, Suhum, Berekum,
Bekwai and Gushiegu, to mention but a few – leaves much to be desired.
Even though we issued a pastoral letter on the elections a few weeks
ago, our concern about the worrying political landscape has made it
necessary for us to revisit the issue.

ELECTIONS
In less than a month, we are going to elect a new President and Members
of Parliament. As we have said time and again, in every election there is
bound to be only one winner. We exhort the winners to exercise
restraint in celebrating their victory. We also urge them to commit
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themselves to the common good and not the good of their party only and
to take concrete steps to dispel the mentality of winner-takes-all.
Likewise we urge the losers to be gracious in accepting the outcome of
the elections and, trusting in our growing democratic culture, to
collaborate with the winning party for the good of all Ghanaians.

MEDIA
If there are to be peaceful elections, the media have an indispensable and
vital role to play. The media practitioners, both state and private,
should, therefore, aim at being fair, honest, objective and circumspect in
their coverage and reportage. They should not assume that only their
view represents the whole truth. Indeed, we advise all Ghanaians not to
allow themselves to be misled by just any publication, but to seek to
know the truth and proclaim nothing but the truth.

We again call on the news media, both private and public, to be careful
in reporting news items that could heighten tensions among Ghanaians.
What has happened in recent times in other countries – intolerance,
violence, deceit and other such negativities – should not be allowed to
happen in Ghana.

ELECTORAL COMMISSION
For the attainment of peace before, during and after the forthcoming
elections, the role of the Electoral Commission is supremely important.
It is the only body constitutionally mandated to organise and oversee
these elections. We would like to commend the Commission for all the
measures that it has taken so far to ensure peaceful, free, fair, transparent
and credible elections. We strongly urge that the Electoral Commission
be provided with all the logistics necessary for the elections. We
equally urge all citizens to co-operate in honesty and sincerity to
enhance the work of the Electoral Commission to ensure peace. We
would like all the political parties to realise that it is only the Electoral
Commission that is empowered to announce the results of the elections.
We, therefore, ask all political parties, indeed everyone, to refrain from
announcing any results before they are declared by the Electoral
Commission.
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POLITICAL PARTIES
We appeal once again to politicians, during their campaigning, to avoid
the temptation of making promises that they know they cannot fulfil,
because this amounts to deceit of the people of Ghana. We urge them to
avoid expressions that threaten revenge and vendetta. It is in the interest
of peace that we should adopt an attitude of forgiveness for the wrongs
done us. “But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father
forgive your transgressions” (Mt. 6:15).

We also call on party leaders, parliamentary and presidential candidates
to conduct themselves honourably and to respect their opponents, both in
their utterances and actions. They should realize that their political
opponents are not their enemies. We urge political parties not to deploy
so-called “macho men” to intimidate voters in the polling areas and
other places or bribe voters to vote for them.

SECURITY AGENTS
We urge the police and other security agents that will be responsible for
maintaining peace and order during the elections to conduct themselves
professionally, remain absolutely neutral and take the appropriate action
against all troublemakers. We appeal that these security agencies be
provided with the logistical support that they need for their work.

VOTERS AND VOTING
We remind Ghanaians of the need to express their choice by voting. We
call upon every eligible voter to vote. Neglecting to vote is a denial of
potential support for social justice and progress. Voting carelessly or
corruptly, whether for a fee or other selfish consideration, can support
injustice and retrogression. Voting conscientiously and purposefully is
the citizen’s most available and direct way of contributing to the election
of the most suitable leaders and support of publicly beneficial policies.
Convinced of the importance of the ballot, voters should reflect well and
if possible, discuss freely with fellow citizens the choices before them.
They should critically appraise the claims, promises and platforms of
their respective candidates and parties as well as the editorials and
commentaries in the communications media. They should be looking
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for candidates who show willingness to place the common good before
their personal interests.

We also appeal strongly to non-Ghanaians and Ghanaians under the age
of eighteen who have registered not to attempt to vote. Even though a
lot of political activities have been going on, Ghanaians have tried to
maintain the atmosphere of peace and tranquility. We, therefore, call on
all who have a role to play in the maintenance of justice and peace in the
country to be vigilant, committed, zealous and conscientious. In the
interest of peace we urge all voters to return home quietly after voting
and avoid loitering around the polling station.



SIGNS OF HOPE
We must thank God that Ghana’s conduct in the last four elections in the
Fourth Republic has been very creditable and peaceful to the admiration
of all. This affirms the fact that our country is maturing in the culture of
democratic governance and the rule of law. We cannot but commend
our fellow Ghanaians for the many positive efforts and activities for
peace and peace-building. We are also heartened by the many prayers,
prayer-vigils and sessions for peace in Ghana, by the demonstrations for
peace by our school children and women, by the “peace train” that has
been travelling through the country. We are encouraged by the very
many seminars and public education on peace-building and
reconciliation organised by the various state agencies, civil society and
faith-based organizations.

We also commend the political parties and their leaders for participating
in the presidential debates and for the firm promise and commitment to
peace before, during and after the forthcoming elections. Ghana, our
motherland, is surely growing and affirming her position as a true
beacon of hope for democracy in Africa.

CONCLUSION


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We Ghanaians pride ourselves on being a peaceful people. We
appreciate efforts that bring us a measure of happiness, peace and joy,
even if in the process we have to suffer a little. It goes without saying
that we cannot achieve perfection in one day. We must admit our
limitations, fully aware that what matters is that we do not lose hope or
give up our struggle to be ourselves and to consolidate our democracy.

We detest violence, which we regard as self-destruction. As the
Ghanaian saying goes, we subdue fire with water. Avoidance of
violence is necessary for true and lasting peace. This must, therefore, be
our aim in the forthcoming elections. We call upon all those who are
engaged in political activities to refrain from violence in imposing their
political views or ideologies in the struggle to gain political supremacy.
A measure of excitement and partisanship is inevitable and should be
permissible during the course of a democratic election campaign.
Nevertheless, we call upon all men and women to pay heed to the
appeals by the Government, Chiefs, Religious Leaders, various state
agencies, civil society organisations and all well-meaning Ghanaians to
refrain absolutely from all forms of violence, ethnic bigotry, intolerance,
insinuations and intimidation. Such practices are undemocratic, cruel
and hurtful to society.

It is against this background that we pray that the vision of the Prophet
Micah may be realized among Ghanaians: “…they shall beat their
swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation
shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any
more” (Mic. 4:3). We must also pray for the realization of the vision of
the Prophet Isaiah in our dear country, as people of different political
persuasions and ethnic groups endeavour to live peacefully together:
“The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the
kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall
lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down
together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall
play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on
the adder’s den” (Isa. 11:6-8).


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In conclusion, our prayer is that “…the Lord of peace himself give you
peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you” (2 Thess.
3:16).



MOST REV. LUCAS ABADAMLOORA
BISHOP OF NAVRONGO-BOLGATANGA AND
PRESIDENT OF THE GHANA CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE




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