The Chairman of the National Peace Council (NPC), the Most Rev. Professor Emmanuel Asante, has identified the large unemployment rate in the country as a potential source for religious extremism that can lead to terrorism.
He said the high rate of unemployment makes, particularly, the youth susceptible to influence from these radical groups and that they could be easily recruited and brainwashed to carry out terrorist acts.
“Our young people are vulnerable, they have no jobs so when people come and they promise all sorts of things, they follow,” Most Rev. Asante said.
He, therefore, challenged the state to create the enabling environment for the private sector to create jobs and employ these high unemployed youth to keep them busy.
Most Rev, Prof, Asante said this last Tuesday at the 11th Annual Interfaith Symposium organised by the Akrofi-Christaller Institute of Theology, Mission and Culture Centre for Christian-Muslim Engagement in Africa (CCMEA) and the Department of Religious Studies of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).
The symposium was on the theme: “The Rise in regional threat of terrorism and religious extremism: implications for security and interreligious engagement in Ghana,” and was attended by security personnel, religious leaders and academia.
In the opinion of the Chairman of the Peace Council, it was time religious groups stopped focusing on their parochial interests and put their resources together “to help the government in terms of creation of jobs and for the government also to create an enabling environment for such people to be able to create jobs.”
He said religion was already providing jobs for the people and cited the examples of drivers for religious leaders, administrators, “but we can do more,” and asked “if the government would create the enabling environment for us to do that?”
The Chairman of the NPC also stressed: “ We should use our pulpits and our teaching facilities that we have in our churches and in our mosques to de-radicalise our people.”
He indicated that the youth had access to the Internet where they were exposed to all sorts of material and have access to where all the radical material are “but we should also be conversant with these radical materials and try to counteract them through our teachings so that we de-radicalise those who have been radicalised and also ensure that we stem the tide of radicalisation.”
Influx of foreigners
Explaining the large presence of foreigners in the country, Rev. Prof. Asante said due to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocol on free movement of people, the government would not be in the position to restrict entry of foreigners, particularly, for those from the sub-region.
However, he said there should be measures to track them since their free entry was valid for a number of days and if those days expired and they were still in the country, the state security should be able to trace and check on them.
Besides, he advised landlords to also be wary of those they rented their houses to and not just to follow the money without conducting background checks on their tenants.
He asked landlords to be vigilant and monitor the activities of their tenants and alert the police if they suspected anything fishy.
A lecturer at the Department of Religious Studies at KNUST, Sheikh Zakaria M. Seebaway, for his part, noted that the rise in religious extremism and terrorism had led to Islamophobia, where every Muslim was treated as a suspected terrorist.
He said even though the vast majority of Muslims did not believe in violence, the behaviour of few extremists among them had affected the entire religion.
Impact of Internet
Mr Seebaway also indicated that the advent of the Internet had made extremism easier than before as the radical groups would not need to be physically present to indoctrinate people.
He said those material could easily be obtained on the Internet with video teachings for people willing to adopt a doctrine to be converted.
He sided with the Chairman of the National Peace Council that the lack of jobs was one of the contributory factor for people, especially the youth, joining these radical groups.
He thus called for good governance, equitable distribution of the national cake and interfaith dialogue as some of the solutions that could help Ghana escape the threat of having her people falling prey to the lure of extremists and radical groups.