Accra, Ghana: All-Africa Congress on Religious Freedom Convenes

The Honorable Gladys Asmah MP opens the congress with a message from the president

Accra, Ghana… The All-Africa Religious Liberty Congress opened today April 25 with a message from Ghana's president, His Excellency John A. Kofuor. Commending the participants for their commitment to religious freedom, the honorable Gladys Asmah MP, Minister of State, read the president's message and added that she believed "all should live in peace whatever religious inclinations we may have." With a practical emphasis on mutual respect between religions, this would be "a wonderful world to live in," she added.

The Congress brings together dignitaries, experts, and religious leaders to highlight the urgent cause of religious freedom, according to Dr. John Graz, secretary general of the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA), the organizing body. "Under the theme 'Religious Liberty: Co-existence in Peace and Freedom in Diversity,' we will be seeking ways to combat religious intolerance and to develop mutual understanding as a way of peace. Too many conflicts in our world today have a religious component and we need to make sure that religion is not used as a weapon of violence."

Some of the Congress participants

Congress speakers come from a wide range of high-level representatives, government officials, and scholars representing more than 60 countries across Africa and beyond. They includeDr. Maina Kiai, head of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights; Rev. Dr. Fred Deegbe, general secretary of the Christian Council of Ghana; Prof. Abdulghafur Hemed Saleh El-Busaidy, chair of the Supreme Muslim Council of Kenya; Rev. Fr. Dr. Ted Nelson-Adjakpey, director, Justice and Peace Commission, Accra Archdiocese; Prof. Adekunle A. Alalade, vice-chancellor, Babcock University, Nigeria; Prof. Daniel Nsereko, dean, faculty of law, University of Botswana; Dr. Maulvi Wahab A. Adam, head, Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission, Ghana; and Mr. Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafo, editor, Daily Graphic, Ghana. Other presentations are being made by experts and representatives of the IRLA, from the United States, Switzerland, England, and China.

"In today's global community, religious freedom is under great threat," comments Dr. Jonathan Gallagher, United Nations representative for the IRLA. "Religious-inspired violence is on the increase, with extremism and intolerance becoming the norm. We believe this vital Congress will provide the opportunity for people of many faiths to interact, and to work together on solutions to the various religious freedom and human rights issues across this great continent."

IRLA representatives interviewed on the national TV Breakfast Show:
L to R: Joyce Midley, TV host and presenter, Prof. Mutuku Mutinga, Pr. Joe Hagan, Dr. Jonathan Gallagher

"Religious freedom is under threat in different areas around the world, and certainly this is a hot issue," adds Dr. Japheth Agboka, regional IRLA representative and primary event organizer. "We hope to make a contribution to the fundamental rights of religious liberty and freedom of conscience through this event and through the use of materials developed here in Accra. We will be working to address the challenge of discrimination and intolerance, especially as it relates to the principles of religious freedom." Agboka was responsible together with the other IRLA regional secretaries for the African continent, Prof. Mutuku Mutinga (East-Central Africa) and Dr. Hensley Moorooven (Southern Africa-Indian Ocean) for the essential planning work of the Congress.

Chartered in 1893, the IRLA has promoted and defended religious freedom for more than a century. Various religious traditions are represented on the Board of Directors, while the presidency rotates annually among a panel of vice presidents. The current president is Dr. Denton Lotz, general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance. The IRLA has no paid staff and officers and directors serve voluntarily. Funding for IRLA operations comes from organizations supportive of the association's purpose. The IRLA was originally organized by leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and its purpose is universal and non-denominational, seeking to address religious freedom concerns from all faith communities. The IRLA believes that religious freedom is the best answer to both religious fanaticism and anti-religious ideologies.

The last All-Africa Congress was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1991. More information on the work of the IRLA can be found at [IRLA News]