SETTING THE RECORDS STRAIGHT: THE WESLEY GIRLS FASTING BROUHAHA................Advocates for Christ Ghana(A4CG)

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Story Reported by Gideon Kotey 

On Monday, the 24th of May 2021, the Christian Methodist community and other Christian faithful worldwide, celebrated Wesley day. It is recognized as the day the Methodist movement was triggered by the experiences of John Wesley almost 300 years ago. Here in Ghana, the topmost academic performing secondary school, the all-female Methodist Mission School - Wesley Girls' High School, named after this Christian luminary, has recently been in the news for all the wrong reasons, other than its sterling academic achievements. This has been a major source of concern for the Christian community in Ghana as it is evident that there is a calculated attempt to create disaffection for the school, its managers as well as Christian leaders in Ghana in general.

In April 2021, the school was oddly accused of discriminating against Muslims with regard to fasting. This accusation is not just unusual, but manifestly untrue given various documented key antecedents and known facts which prove that these accusations are baseless and without merit. 

Three (3) key historical facts that underscore the trajectory of the WGHS policy on religious practices and activities in general, including fasting are:

1. The Non-Fasting Policy which was instituted by the school board in the 1990s was established because of some CHRISTIANS who had been fasting and ended up collapsing, and causing near fatalities as well as traumatizing other students from ever considering or attempting to repeat this or engage in the same. (WHGS Press Release, 9th May 2021)

2. It is also noteworthy to recount that again soon after the fasting ban in the 1990s, WGHS also severed its relationship with Joyful Way Incorporated (JWI) which started in 1972. 

A long standing and close relationship that had thrived over the years, under various headmistresses and that JWI had depended on to minister more regularly to girls in the school and to identify youthful members to groom into their fold. Here again a Christian groups influence was restrained and religious freedoms or privileges of the students were expressly curtailed by new school rules.

3. Related to this, it is reported that even earlier in the 1983/1984 academic year, WGHS decided to ban Scripture Union (SU) activities in the school. As a consequence, the Scripture Union of Ghana has no representatives or activities in WGHS as you will find in many other Ghanaian second cycle schools. Not just that but again in this instance, CHRISTIANS were the target of a school policy taken to limit religious activity; and they accepted this in the spirit of Article 14(1) (e).

To contextualize these events properly, we need to understand that these policy decisions were not taken by the board, in a vacuum. They were taken with the understanding that for the period of three (3) years that our wards or children will be in school we want them to focus on their academics since that will ultimately serve their supreme interest and help them stand out. Truth be told, this decision has not been without effect; and the current achievements of WGHS could not have been achieved without some of the stringent efforts instituted to ensure that young ladies who enter WGHS school, learn to focus on academics from the very first day.

Clearly, maintaining discipline with a strict attention to academic work has been key to WGHS performance and this is not surprising as discipline is known to have a positive influence on both the individual as well as the school environment. This is why every school has rules for its students to achieve targeted goals. Following these rules, which may not and obviously cannot be crafted to suit every individual's preferences, is extremely important for ensuring a conducive learning environment, removing distractions and maintaining order. 

So here are some of the fundamental issues to be considered and key questions the media and general public ought to be asking: 


1. The school board and the church decided that in spite of the fact that they believe wholeheartedly in fasting as a spiritual discipline, however based on past experiences, fasting is evidently neither the paramount nor a major focus for their being in school, consequently, for the three (3) year SHS period, we will not allow our wards to fast or allow any other Christian/religious groups to influence them to fast, whilst in school. 


QUESTION: How does that this decision, taken in the 1990s primarily targeted at Christians, and enforced againstt all students become discrimination against another faith/Muslims in April 2021? 

QUESTION: Where are the documented historical facts and not assumptions, that lead to arriving at the justifiable conclusion that this 1990s WGHS policy was targeted at Muslims?

Bearing in mind that this decision has not prevented all the other spiritual disciplines of prayer, bible/koran reading etc. from continuing in the school.

2. Ecclesiastes 3: 1 - 2 states “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot. The school management, board and church have stood on scriptures such as this and it has served them well. WGHS has achieved regional acclamation in respect of academic laurels consistently and this is what has attracted parents and wards of other faiths to choose the school. 


QUESTION: If as a Christian Parent or Guardian or as a School you recognize that this non-fasting formula has worked for all your older children and is therefore is best for your current children as far as academic performance is concerned, would you not in line with Mark 12: 31 "Love your neighbor as yourself"ensure the same academic environment for your neighbor's child?


QUESTIONS: So really, why should school management and the church be attacked for wanting to love children from all faiths equally? or for providing the same conducive learning environment for all of its students without any consideration to ethnic, religious or other differences? Why should the school, its management and the Methodist church be attacked for working to ensure that all students do well academically? How can this be called discrimination? Indeed, would the school not be promoting reverse discrimination if one (1) group of students are allowed to fast, while another is being told you cannot fast?


Imagine Traditionalists, Seventh-Day Adventists, Rastafarians, Jehovah Witnesses, Sikhs, Muslims (Ahmadis, Sunnis, Shias) and even other denominations of the church all having permission to observe different religious practices in any school? The adherents of traditional religious beliefs with no shoes on and requiring a place for their animal or other sacrifices, the puberty rites adherents, insisting on being bare chested, the rasta-farians insisting on maintaining dreadlocks and use of  'herbs',  seventh day Adventists insisting on no school activities on Saturday, the Christians insisting on no activities on Sunday etc. the end result would definitely undermine the academic focus on campus, and lower performance.


Since we all know that the No-Fasting Policy is evidently neutral, factually non-discriminatory and aligned with the constitution of Ghana, the real question is what exactly are they trying to achieve by making such false and misleading accusations? 

Only two (2) possible answers are available at the moment:

1. Undermine the academic performance of WGHS or/and

2. Compel Christian schools to become secularized and therefore restrict their mission/evangelistic efforts.

Whichever of the two, this attempt to unjustifiably interfere in the management and running of Christian mission schools is unacceptable to us and we have noted with great concern that this strategy has been adopted globally by another faith in particular to secularize Christian schools and clamp down on their impact. The fact that the State contributes a financial quota to mission schools, does not whittle away the Christian investments, as well as mission and objectives of these schools. 


Indeed the state also contributes financially to some non-diversified schools built and dedicated solely to the teaching of a particular religion and a particular language in which its holy book is written in - and these learning centres do not accept children of other faiths. 

In any case, our current Government committed in 2016 to hand over the mission schools and we know that the Christian community is poised and able to institute financial models to make schools like WGHS run on their own without any State support. The current situation only inures to the benefit of non-Christian mission minded groups and individuals who want to exploit the school and take advantage of its success through protocol lists and also making it secular. So we have some key questions for government and other stakeholders:

KEY QUESTIONS FOR GOVERNMENT & OTHER STAKEHOLDERS: 

1. Why would a coach, with a winning formula, that has never failed, for winning matches, suddenly be attacked about his or her formula and be asked to change the formula? 

When there is no data or analysis showing that changing the formula will promote or contribute to improving the performance of team members or achieving the main goal of the team?

2. Is it that as a society we have now concluded that our senior religious leaders, have nothing to offer, and we believe that they would arbitrarily take decisions, in spite of their calling, and so we do not think that it is necessary to do any background investigation before discrediting them, the school and the church at large? 3. Is it right for the spokespersons of one (1) faith to vociferously call another faith group "intolerant" and "bigots: when they have refused to research, listen to and acknowledge the facts and are therefore peddling mis-truths? is this not a calculated attempt to undermine the peace and stability of our nation, while assuming that Christians will not highlight the obvious dis-connect between their dangerous religious advocacy and the actual historical and operational level facts? 

4. Is it fair, right or appropriate that Senior and Young journalists, MPs, former Vice-Presidential candidates, leaders of civil society etc. should begin to call the Methodist, Catholic and in general Christian leadership in Ghana intolerant, bigots and arrogant? 

Without researching and being conversant with the facts, understanding the issues and therefore being in a position to draw fitting conclusions? 

CONCLUSIONS & RECOMMENDATIONS

As we conclude we would like to highlight three (3) issues for the attention of the general public:

1. In terms of relevance, the constitution of Ghana supersedes every other piece of legislation or law that has been passed by parliament and accented by the President. 

The constitution of Ghana also takes precedence over any legislation, sub-legislation that exists or is being created by MDAs, MMDAs and related agencies including policies, contracts/MoUs and more.

2. The Constitution of Ghana 1992, in Article 14 (1) (e ) states categorically that: no person shall be deprived of their personal liberty/rights except: "for the purpose of the education or welfare of a person who has not attained the age of eighteen years". In other words, for persons under the age of 18 years personal liberty/rights can be restricted where necessary, for their WELFARE and EDUCATION. 

This upholds the authority/rights of not just parents but also educational institutions to institute rules and regulations for their wards or students.

3. For the avoidance of doubt, we wish to place on record that there is already a legal precedent on the issue of granting religious rights and its potential impact on the management of educational institutions in a similar case. So on Friday 11thNovember 2005, an Accra Fast Track High Court threw out the SDA students motion on examination dates (GNA). Earlier 149 students pursuing various courses at the University prayed the Court for an order of interlocutory injunction to restrain the University from conducting examinations on November 19th, November 26, December 3rd and December 10 which are Saturdays. They also sought a perpetual injunction to restrain agents and servants of the University among others not to compel them to participate in academic activities including writing examinations on Saturdays. The SDA students argued that the University's conduct of examinations on Saturdays were "illegal, unlawful and a breach of human rights". 


In their supporting affidavit the students indicated that they were members of the SDA, who adhered strictly to its tenets and this does not allow them to engage in secular activities or work on Saturday which is their Sabbath Day. These activities included attending lectures, tutorials and seminars (Ghana Web, 2005). The court ruled in favor of the university, recognizing the university's authority and ponsibilities in providing education whilst dismissing the religious discrimination grounds for the action. It was no discrimination so long as it was not targeted at a particular group and applied equally to all students. 


We of the firm opinion that the basis of SDA students case dismissal will equally apply in this WGHS case as well. 


We want to emphasize that State and Religious body relationships are crucial for developing and providing the infrastructural needs of the nation. Consequently, it is in the interest of the State for such relationships to continue to be nurtured and promoted. The Christian community in particular can boast of having significantly contributed to the Health and Educational infrastructure of Ghana. 


We therefore call on the President of our dear Nation H. E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo to continue to uphold the Constitution of Ghana as he has sworn to do. We call on the Minister for Education Honourable Dr. Yaw Osei-Adutwum, not to inadvertently attempt setting a policy precedent that would be at variance with the Constitution and that would raise unnecessaryreligious tensions in the country. 


We look forward again to the Minister for Education, Honourable Dr. Yaw Osei-Adutwum demonstrating that he will deliver on their 2016 promises and commitments through quickly providing a road map for handing over all mission schools in the short term. 


We call on all faiths to respect the tenets of our Constitution, the Ghanaian Constitution and to build and maintain bridges that will continue to propel our nation Ghana forward.


God bless you and God bless our homeland Ghana!


Source: www.truthtvnews.com

Editor: Nii  Amon

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