The Ministry of Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs (MCRA) says it intends to review the Chieftaincy Act, 2008 Act 759 and formulate a national policy on religion to sanitize the system to bring peace.
At a regional stakeholders engagement organized by the ministry in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), it brought together representatives from the 16 regions from academia, various religious bodies, traditional leaders, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and a host of stakeholders to solicit their views to formulate the policy.
It said some challenges identified included religious intolerance, conflict and noise-making among others.
Addressing the gathering on behalf of the UNFPA Country Representative, Dr. Wilfred Ochan, Abigail Edem Hunu, UNFPA Ghana Programs Assistant for Gender, noted that religious leaders play vital role in shaping society and hoped that policies formulated would factor the issues of girls and women.
"For UNFPA, it was a welcome idea to partner with the ministry because we have a role to play by our mandate. We work with women, girls and young people.”
“We work to ensure that women and girls are empowered, delivery is safe and every young person is supported to realise his or her dreams. We are also aware, that most people all over the world look up to religious leaders for guidance, directions, or inspiration especially when they become vulnerable and are looking for solutions."
She said the significant impact of cultural and religious factors in shaping attitudes and behaviours related to reproductive health, family planning and gender issues cannot be overemphasized hence stressed the importance of engaging with religious leaders to promote dialogue and understanding.
“Religious Leaders are believed to have the following and the ability to lead their followers to step into the unknown with ease. They are an essential social support for many, both adults and adolescents in their everyday lives,” she added.
By supporting the national consultation, UNFPA aimed to ensure that the issues of women's and girls' rights are adequately considered in the policy development process.
"Let us together think about the future of our young people and put in place policies that involve addressing harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation and child marriage, which are rooted in traditions,” she said.
Mr. Richard Fedieley, Director of Research, Statistics and Information Management at MCRA, in an interview with the media, said the meeting was to allow sector players to self-formulate the policy to avoid the imposition of decision.
He said the chieftaincy is faced with conflicts that require that these conflicts be reduced since it is a national security issue.
In addition to the policy, the ministry intends to introduce the codification of lines of succession to stools.
He said the chieftaincy act had been set in motion and is currently with the National House of Chiefs and would soon conduct an exercise in all the 16 regional houses of chiefs to sensitize chiefs on the need to codify their lines of succession to their stools to address chieftaincy conflicts.
Chairman for the occasion, Miyemliaba Nii Adjei Asua Oweeni II, La Agbawe Mantse and member of the La Traditional Council in his address said the regional consultation dialogue was imperative for mutual understanding and working together to continue to enjoy peace at the religious front and protect the rights and freedom of all citizens regardless of their believes.
He added that despite the intercession by religious bodies over the years, there are numerous concerns that are worrying.
In his view, the policy aimed at addressing the challenges and opportunity that arises from the coexistence of different religious bodies and also provide a framework for the protection and promotion of rights of all religious groups as far as the prevention and resolution that may arise from religious difference are concerned.
He pointed out that records from the 2021 Population and Housing Census (PHC) by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) identify 21.9million of the population as Christians, 6.1million as Muslims, 1million as traditional leaders and 1.4million as other groups and 400,000 people as non-religious groups.
According to him, it had to be understood without any equivocation that constitutional guarantees of rights to religion and its beliefs are not absolute and may be subject to limitation that are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety.
He mentioned that the consultation in the development of the comprehensive policy on religion was crucial in the inclusiveness that would promote religious harmony, diversity and tolerance in the country.
He emphasized that the consultation can be made possible through technical and financial support from the UNFPA, the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) and the Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Ghana.
Jonathan Azasoo, Senior Technical Advisor at NDPC said it was important to engage stakeholders in the policy formulation process because it helps avoid the imposition of decisions on religious groups.
He said the NDPC has a constitutional mandate of formulating policies to regulate societies and institutions, however there are mechanisms to follow and the commission was part of the engagement to ensure it guided it through.
He said the basis for policy formulation had to do with the resolution of problems and the key starting point includes the identification of issues that cannot be initiated without it.
He said the religious bodies identify there are challenges and for the policy to work it would depend on the stakeholders.