Opinion: Government Should Hands Off National Cathedral Construction – By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

The writer, Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jnr., Ph.D.

Nobody, to the best of my knowledge, in principle, would argue against the need for the construction of a National Cathedral in a predominantly Christian country such as Ghana. The fact of the matter, though, is that in as much as such a monumental or significant architectural structure or landmark may healthily cater to the emotional, psychological and spiritual needs and desires of most Ghanaian citizens, it is still not inclusive of each citizen or legal resident of the land. Even more significant to promptly note is the fact that ours is a Constitutional Democracy that categorically enjoins the Separation of Church and State. What this clearly means is that the Central Government has absolutely no business in meddling in the affairs of our religious establishment. As well, the operatives or administrators of our religious institutions, be they Christian or Muslim, have absolutely no business either using their citadels of charitable causes and the inculcation of ethical principles and good citizenship to dabble in partisan politics.

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In sum, if the Christian majority citizens of Ghana want to establish or construct a National Cathedral, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the pursuit and/or realization of such a noble objective. Nevertheless, the actualization of such objective ought not to be executed using public funds or the taxpayer’s money. Rather, what needs to be done here is for the leadership of all the churches that constitute the Christian Council of Ghana (CCG) and, perhaps, the Catholic Secretariat (CS) as well, to confer or come together and make such a laudable project become a reality. This, of course, would necessitate the raising of adequate capital or fiscal resources to make the construction of a National Cathedral a glorious reality. In the news article on which this discussion is based, titled “National Cathedral Is Not Waste of Resources” Rev.-Dr. Paul Frimpong-Manso, the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God Church of Ghana, is reported to be saying that a member of his denomination has donated the handsome amount of $ 2 Million towards the National Cathedral Construction Project.

This is partly how such a monumental project ought to be undertaken. Indeed, one naturally expects other well-heeled Christians to step up to the proverbial plate and add unto what the anonymous philanthropist has reportedly done. I would not be the least bit surprised if some practicing Muslims, not necessarily cynically calculating politicians, step out to contribute to this noble effort. You see, any inadvisable attempt by the Akufo-Addo-led government of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to fiscally support the construction of a National Cathedral by Ghana’s Christian majority, would also necessitate the same government’s bounden obligation to facilitate the establishment or construction of a National Mosque or Islamic Center for Ghanaian Muslims, if the latter religious group should also make a similar demand. I don’t see why our Muslim brothers and sisters should pass up or forgo such an auspiciously prime opportunity. The next equation or question then becomes: Does an already overburdened government have the fiscal resources to support the construction of two National Religious Monuments at the same time?

It is not as simple as some movers-and-shakers of the Akufo-Addo Administration are making it seem. You simply don’t want to mix religion with politics in our kind of highly charged atmosphere. It is like flicking up a lighter very close to aviation fuel, nobody wants to witness the result. What the government can still do, however, and already well appears to be doing, although it is a move that is equally very unpopular, is the use of the globally recognized Principle of Eminent Domain to secure the prime landed property being demanded by some of the brains behind the proposed construction of a National Cathedral for the purpose. Of course, we ought to also be mindful of the fact that when it comes to the turn of our Muslim brothers and sisters, they will also reasonably and justifiably expect the Principle of Eminent Domain to be invoked and applied to the location of their project. For those of our readers who may not be familiar with the expression, the Principle of Eminent Domain simply means the right of the government to occupy land that is already legitimately occupied by other individuals or groups of law-abiding citizens, by simple asserting that the acquisition or expropriation of such already occupied lands is for a purpose or project that will be of much greater benefit to society at large than is presently the case.

I am perfectly in agreement with Dr. Frimpong-Manso, the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God Church of Ghana, that cynically arguing against the construction of the National Cathedral on grounds that there are still too many public schools around the country that woefully lack inhabitable or acceptable physical plant facilities and adequate teaching materials, does not get the critics very far. After all, who said that there were no homeless and/or hungry people in India when the government of that billion-plus population Westminster-type federation decided to offer the Ghana government the generous mixture of grants and soft, or low-interest, loans for the construction of Jubilee House, our current seat of governance?

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