The Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama on Tuesday urged religious leaders to lead exemplary lives that would influence the behaviour and perceptions of their followers.
"The level of influence, whether positive or negative, derives from the attitude and example of leadership. You have a huge responsibility to your followers to provide the kind of leadership that shuns violence and intolerance that could be caused by differences in the belief system," he said.
Alhaji Aliu was speaking at the opening of the 7th West Africa Inter-Religious Coordinating Committee (WAIRCC) regional consultation conference on the theme "Confronting Violence and Advancing Shared Security in West Africa."
Delegates from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal, Nigeria, Benin and the host country Ghana were attending the three-day conference organized by the Ghana Conference of Religions for Peace (GCRP).
"Your leadership must promote respect for fellow man, rejection of intolerance in all its forms, the need for unity of purpose and the desire to serve for the betterment of mankind."
Alhaji Aliu noted that the greatest enemy facing Africa was poverty since it confronted people on a daily basis.
"The triple scourge of disease, ignorance and hunger could lead to a state of hopelessness and where there is no hope, violence and insecurity fill the gap. West Africa has suffered different levels of insecurity but our collective experiences have positioned us well to reject violence at all cost."
He said violent conflicts in the sub-region had caused destruction of institutions, weakened economies, increased the number of refugees, small arms proliferation, increase in the number of child soldiers and cross border crime.
Alhaji Aliu said since peace was a fundamental prerequisite for development, dialogue was the best approach to resolution of conflicts.
He commended the GCRP for bringing together people with different beliefs and practices to share and foster mutual respect for each other's views.
Alhaji Aliu advised politicians not to sacrifice the peace in the country for their political gains during the elections in December.
Maulvi Dr. Wahab Adam, Chairman of the Governing Council of GCRP, said it was unfortunate that religion had been used to cause anguish and pain to innocent people.
"It is sad that in some parts of the world today some people cannot freely profess, propagate and practice their religion but religion is meant to unite people, promote peace and development.”
Mr. Kobina Tahiru Hammond, Deputy Minister for Interior, called for God's guidance in the promotion of peace in the sub-region.
Professor Irene Odotei, Member of the Peace Council of Ghana, advised religious leaders not to allow politicians to influence their perception with incentives during the elections in December.