The Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference has defended its stance in support of the continuation of compulsory morning devotion in Catholic Schools and has advised students who cannot abide by the rules to “go somewhere else.”
According to the Conference, the students, including Muslims, who go to Christian schools are aware of the school’s practices, accept the conditions before they are admitted and, as a result, have no grounds for complaint.
[contextly_sidebar id=”DqXMm5QoLcN7FOXJH7uTXwquUfgQ0K3H”]“When people decide to go to a particular school, they know the status, culture and beliefs of that school and they sign a document sating that they will abide by the regulations. If they don’t want the regulations they can go somewhere else but not a Christian school,” the President of the Conference, Most Rev. Joseph Osei-Bonsu said on Eyewitness News on Tuesday.
“The schools were formed with a certain purpose in mind and one of those things is that in the morning, we have a devotion. And if you decide and agree to go to that school then you must comply. It is the same way that if you are a Christian and you decide to go and teach in an Islamic school if you are a woman, you must wear a veil. That’s the rule there,” he added.
The government had issued a directive calling on schools to desist from forcing Muslim students to attend morning devotion in schools and perpetuating other forms of discrimination or risk facing sanctions, a call that was reiterated by President John Mahama.
However, the Catholic Bishops released a statement in response to the directive, describing the Government’s threats of sanctions against the schools as “unwarranted.”
And according to Most Reverend Osei-Bonsu, their decision to insist on the morning devotions is in compliance with the directive from the Ghana Education Service (GES), asking all students to attend the devotion if it is part of the school’s rules.
“The GES came out with a statement to the effect that the morning devotion should be attended by all students. The heads of our institutions picked their instructions from GES that they should continue what they have been doing…. we are acting in accordance of the directives of the GES and the GES says morning devotions should continue,” he said.
The Muslim Students Association has since rejected this directive from the GES and called on Muslim students to disregard it.
No breach of the constitution
Most Reverend Osei-Bonsu also rejected suggestions that they might be breaching constitutional provisions by continuing compulsory morning devotions in the schools.
According to him, the rules compelling the students to attend the morning devotions did not, in any way infringe on the rights of Muslims, adding that they were not being coerced to convert to the Christian religion.
“We are not in violation of the constitution. We are not forcing anyone to become a Christian. So those in our schools who are not Christians, Muslims and so on, we are not forcing them. They are entitled to their view.”
Need for dialogue
The president of the Catholic Bishops Conference called for dialogue in dealing with the issue and asked that all stakeholders be part of the process.
“If there is a need for change then of course we have to sit down and dialogue. There is a partnership between the state and the mission schools. It is a partnership going back a long way and so there are different stakeholders. So if there is the need for any change then we should all sit down, talk and see what we can change. But one party cannot just get up and issue directives while they are not stakeholders and no nothing at all about it,” Most Reverend Osei-Bonsu said.
By: Edwin Kwakofi/citifmonline.com/Ghana