Independent now for just over 50 years, Ghana has become a model for the world in the area of religious tolerance. With a population nearly equally divided among Christianity, Islam and traditional religions, it is truly remarkable how Ghanaians are both so passionate about their individual religions—celebrations are very outward here—but tolerant of others. The mantra that it doesn’t matter where one comes from or what he or she believes in—when in Ghana he or she will be welcomed and treated as Ghanaian—is something this nation lives and breathes every day.
It is even common to have a peaceful religious divide within families—traditional parents with Christian children who are happy for their Muslim cousins’ success. This harmony is evident from the top-down as well, with a government that for the past half-century has strongly supported religious freedom. While Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter are national holidays here, as they are in many countries, so are Muslim holidays like the Idul Fitr and Idul Adhia. Because they are acknowledged and people here have a basic knowledge and understanding of another belief, there is not the fear and impending hysteria it has created in much of the world.
This is thanks in large part also to the Ghana Peace Council, which was created by the government to raise awareness surrounding the use of nonviolent strategies in response to conflict through networking, coordination and campaigning. The 11 members include the most prominent members of the Catholic, Muslim and traditional religions in Ghana, as well as some top legal and business professionals, academics and youth representatives. During its existence, this group has built an impressive track record, with one of its most important duties being to decide otherwise-deadlocked national elections. In one notable example, the leader of the group—the head of a Muslim mission—made a deciding vote against the political party he personally supported, because through deliberations with the entire group it was evident that the opposing party would better serve Ghana at the time. Such sacrifice of one’s personal beliefs for the betterment of a nation surely has a trickle-down effect, providing an example that is difficult for individuals to go against.
Ghana may have its share of problems, but when it comes to religious tolerance, it is truly a nation to behold.