COMMUNIQUE ISSUED BY THE 19TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF GHANA HELD AT THE RAMSEYER TRAINING CENTRE, ABETIFI-KWAHU FROM 16TH – 22ND AUGUST 2019.
“Blessed be the Name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might” (Daniel 2:20 ESV).
The Presbyterian Church of Ghana (PCG) at the end of its 19th General Assembly at Abetifi-Kwahu in the Eastern Region of Ghana from 16th – 22nd August, 2019 sends greetings to the Government and people of Ghana.
The General Assembly affirms the faith of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana in the Sovereignty of God and His power to direct the affairs of nations and peoples for good ends, for His own glory and for the good of His people in all circumstances. The General Assembly also affirms its commitment to the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which alone has the power to truly heal the world and restore it to righteousness, justice and peace. The General Assembly further affirms its commitment to work and pray for the prosperity of the state in cooperation with the government and other stakeholders.
THEME FOR THE YEAR
The General Assembly was guided in its deliberations by the theme, “Let Christ be formed in you” (Galatians 4:19), which is also meant to be the guiding theme of the Church for the year 2019/2020. It expresses the acknowledgement of the failures of the people of God and the nation to live up to the calling to be agents of truth, love, righteousness and justice. It is a confession of the Church of Christ that it has not been diligent enough in empowering its members to demonstrate the Christ-like character in their daily lives. Consequently, the General Assembly commits itself to intensify its Christ-centered preaching, teaching, and prayer to empower the faithful to project the character of Christ at home, at workplaces, and in all spheres of life.
The General Assembly wishes to commend the President and his government for the relatively prudent manner in which they have run the country so far. The General Assembly commends the President, especially, for showing sensitivity to the expectations of the electorate. The President demonstrated a sense of solidarity with the people when he listened to the call for the suspension of the proposed construction of a multi-million-dollar new chamber for the Parliament of Ghana. The General Assembly similarly lauds the collective achievement of Parliament, Civil society and the Executive in passing into law the Right to Information Bill. The General Assembly hopes that this positive approach to governance will be enhanced to enrich Ghana’s democracy.
The General Assembly congratulates the government for the bold effort it has made so far in managing the economy. However, the Presbyterian Church of Ghana identifies with the lamentations of the general public over the difficult economic conditions despite the improvement in the various economic indicators. For most Ghanaians, those indicators are of no relevance unless they are reflected in tangible ways in their daily lives. The Church therefore calls on the government to do everything feasible to reduce the high cost of living.
The General Assembly is concerned about the persistence of corruption in high and low levels of public service and the seeming lack of commitment on the part of authorities in dealing with the canker. The impressive array of anti-corruption legislation in the nation’s law books and the existence of several high-profile anti-corruption bodies are proving almost ineffective. Commentaries decrying the widespread corruption in the country, have been consistently made by significant personalities and groups over so many years. But high-place lamentation alone does not shape morality; action does. The General Assembly therefore calls on the Government and state institutions to work with the law courts to swiftly punish all those found guilty of corruption.
The General Assembly observes with concern what seems to be a growing encroachment on Press Freedom in the country. According to the 2019 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders, Ghana dropped four places from 23 to 27 in 2018 in the world ranking. This sends negative signals. Again, a report by the United Press for Development Network (UPDN) revealed that in 2018, Ghana recorded 31 cases of assaults on the media. Furthermore, at the close of 2018 the local news media house, Joy FM reported that 17 journalists had been attacked in 15 months. The General Assembly urges the government to deal with the impunity with which the rights of journalists are trampled upon to ensure that journalists in this country go about their duties with a sense of safety and security.
While assuring them of its support, the General Assembly urges all journalists, especially Christians to be courageous in plying their trade as part of their mission to expand the Kingdom of God and pursue truth and justice for all. Journalists must approach their work with a sense of fairness and a commitment to truth. Journalism by extortion and blackmail that destroys the hard-won reputation of others must be avoided. Misuse of media power is as evil as state suppression of press freedom.
SECURITY AND SAFETY
The General Assembly notes with admiration the government’s ability to hold the nation together in relative peace despite the numerous challenges that have confronted the country in recent years. The General Assembly recalls, with a sense of gratitude to God, the restoration of peace in Dabgon and urges all stakeholders, especially citizens of the area, to work hard to sustain the peace. While congratulating the Committee of Eminent Chiefs and successive governments for these achievements, the General Assembly encourages the current government to step up efforts to resolve similar conflicts in other parts of the country. Tensions still remain between Konkombas and Chokosis in Chereponi, which occasionally, breaks out in violent conflicts.
According to the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), the March 2019 hostilities in Chereponi resulted in the displacement of more than 1860 residents. In this regard, the General Assembly wishes to appeal to both sides in the conflict to exercise restraint and cooperate with government to find a lasting solution to their differences.
Crime and Vigilantism
The General Assembly notes with concern the steady rise in crime. Though reports by African Institute for Crime, Policy and Governance Research (AFRICPGR) show that murder cases reduced from 2.2 in 2012 to 1.7 per 100,000 people in 2018, the number of murders reported by the media in the first half of 2019 does not present a comforting picture. In the same report, robbery cases are said to have risen from 4.4 in 2012 to 6.5 in 2018 per a 100,000 people. An equally worrying development is the rise in kidnapping cases in recent times. The General Assembly is thankful to God that the security officers swiftly rescued the Canadian girls kidnapped in Kumasi in June.
The General Assembly nevertheless, feels distressed by the unresolved case of the kidnapped Takoradi girls. We express solidarity with the families of these young ladies and pray for strength and God’s grace for them. While the General Assembly does not intend to play down the pain and widespread anger, it wishes to caution the general public against riding on the pain of this deep sense of loss to profile all foreigners or any group of people in ways that can generate hatred.
The General Assembly congratulates the Parliament and the President for passing the Vigilantism and Related Offences Bill into law. In regards to the more important issue of making this law effective, the General Assembly calls on the law enforcement agencies to ready itself for the task, especially as the country approaches the 2020 general elections. The General Assembly further calls on all political parties, especially, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) to demonstrate such commitment to peace.
Recent Reported Attacks on Innocent Citizens
It is with utmost concern that the General Assembly notes the increasing reports about violent attacks on some individuals including police personnel and chiefs in some parts of the country.
We note, the shameful and shocking murder of 3 police personnel and a sub-chief of the Asantehene as well as the kidnapping of the chief of Upper Discove, resulting in injuries. We commend the joint team of police and military for the swiftness with which they moved into action and apprehended some of the suspects in these heinous crimes.
The General Assembly urges the security agencies to work hard at arresting all the remaining suspects and also to prevent the recurrence of such crimes.
As part of its God-given responsibility towards the protection of the environment, the PCG has started a campaign dubbed, “National Cleanliness / Sanitation Campaign”, beginning with selected schools in Accra. The campaign which has the slogan – “Godliness; Cleanliness” has subsequently, been given a national dimension with a formal launch at the 19th General Assembly. It will be extended to all Congregations with the objective of empowering the communities to adopt effective waste management practices in their homes and neighborhoods as part of witnessing to the Christ-like character of believers. The General Assembly directs all Agents of the PCG to lead in this campaign. PCG Congregations are encouraged to collaborate with other churches and institutions who have similar initiatives for maximum result. Similarly, state institutions and the civil society are encouraged to put in place effective sanitation law enforcement systems to address the country’s sanitation challenges.
COMPREHENSIVE SEXUALITY EDUCATION (CSE)
The General Assembly notes with some disquiet what appears to be a preparation towards the introduction and dissemination of a policy document on Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) in our schools.
While a carefully packaged sexuality education can be helpful, and therefore desirable, the General Assembly wishes to caution against the indoctrination of Ghanaian children and youth with ideas and attitudes that are incompatible with the religious and cultural values of our people. The introduction of inappropriate concepts and practices to our children of any age that can be damaging to the institutions of marriage and the family must be avoided.
RECENT REVOCATION OF LICENSES OF TWENTY-THREE FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS
General Assembly observes with mixed feelings the sanitization of the financial institutions in our country. While appreciating the courage shown in the intervention by the Bank of Ghana, the General Assembly calls on the government and relevant authorities to show greater sensitivity to the plight of other stakeholders by ensuring that adequate humane arrangements are put in place to minimize the negative effects of the intervention.
Importantly, and in the name of justice, the General Assembly strongly calls upon the appropriate state authority to ensure that the persons behind the mess are brought before the law courts to face the due consequences of their actions.
THE CRISIS IN CAMEROON
The General Assembly notes with some grave concerns the worsening internal conflict in the Cameroon. This is a major cause of instability in a region which is already disturbed by the activities of Boko Haram. What is worrying is that, apart from a couple of Western European countries, other countries have been largely silent about these developments.
For obvious reasons, the General Assembly appeals to the government of Ghana to raise its influential voice and explore all avenues to persuade the two factions to commit to measures towards a peaceful solution of the conflict to save life and property in the Cameroon.
CHALLENGES TO RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
In the past decade, reports about the persecution of religious minorities have increased and Christian minorities, especially, have suffered great persecution in several places around the globe. A report released in July 2019 by the Pew Research Centre revealed that religious persecution increased around the world in the period between 2007 and 2017. It is evident in the report that governments and world leaders have, largely, ignored these persecutions.
The fact remains that Freedom of Religion and Belief is at the base of the human rights edifice and must be diligently protected. The General Assembly, therefore, calls on governments around the world, including Ghana to take seriously their responsibility of protecting the religious human rights of all within their jurisdictions. The General Assembly also calls on ecumenical bodies and civil society groups not to remain silent in the face of these crimes against humanity which affects millions of lives.
Churches and Terror-Attack Scare
Recent attacks on Churches in neighboring Burkina Faso have caused panic in the country and this has led many churches into planning for the security and safety of worshippers. The General Assembly encourages all churches to be security conscious but not be intimidated as they uphold their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and keep alive their zeal for God’s work. The General Assembly appeals to the public to support the security services by offering them information about suspicious movements in their neighborhoods.
Calls on the State to Regulate Religion
Recent negative reports in the media about some church leaders and functionaries have raised concerns that have sparked calls for legislation to regulate religious bodies, their functionaries, and their activities. While the General Assembly strongly condemns the negative teachings, practices and behaviors of those religious leaders that have dented the image of Christianity in Ghana, it cautions against rushing to legislate on religion in the country.
This is because, the infractions committed by these religious functionaries are not representative of any religious group or even the clergy. Furthermore, almost every reported transgression in recent times can be dealt with by applying an already existing legislation. Thus, there is no need for new legislation to specifically address religious matters. Nevertheless, the General Assembly calls on all religious groups and functionaries, especially, churches and their pastors, to ensure continuous education for their pastors and other leaders to maintain the public trust in them. The General Assembly also urges religious groups to develop and enforce sound codes of ethics to regulate their clergy.
The Church recognizes her position as the salt and light of the world. The General Assembly appreciates that the society expect the church to provide leadership in morality and high level of integrity. The successful fulfilment of this expectation from both God and society informed the theme of the meeting, “let Christ be formed in you” – Gal 4: 19.
The General Assembly pledges the cooperation of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana with the state in promoting and upholding the peace and prosperity of the nation and seek the dignity of all who find themselves in Ghana. The General Assembly reminds the government and the people of Ghana that without the grace of God our nation’s efforts cannot yield much; dependence on God leads to the greatness of nations. General Assembly urges the pursuit of righteousness under the One Lord, Jesus Christ. For, indeed, “Righteousness exalts a nation…” (Prov. 14:34)
Long Live the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, Long Live Ghana!
Peace and prosperity to the People of Ghana!!