The writer
The writer

Public holiday for traditional worship: Proposal

The Constitution of Ghana enshrines the freedom of association and religious practice (Article 21(1)). The country and our public ceremonies very much recognise three of these religious groups: Christianity, Islam and Traditional worship. 

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Despite this, only Christianity and Islam have received state recognition on public holidays during their festive periods, at least twice a year for each of them (Article, 2019, 986; 601(2)).

Ghana has not accorded the same recognition to Traditional worship, despite its deep historical and cultural significance and even as the religion of the motherland. This proposal advocates for the creation of a single public holiday to acknowledge Traditional worship and Ancestral veneration.

Therefore, we are urging all stakeholders, particularly parliamentarians who are descendants of our ancestors to utilise the private members' bill, specifically Articles 93(2), 108, and Orders 180 and 181 of the standing orders of Parliament to initiate a parliamentary debate.

Countries

Several countries have established public holidays to honour Traditional worship and ancestral veneration, reflecting their cultural and religious practices.  In China, the Qingming Festival, celebrated on April 4th or 5th, involves visiting graves and making offerings to honour ancestors, and preserve cultural heritage.

Vietnam's Hung Kings Temple Festival held on the 10th day of the third lunar month commemorates the nation's founders and reinforces national identity. Japan's Obon Festival, celebrated in mid-August, involves visiting graves, traditional dances and lantern lighting to honour ancestors' spirits.

Benin celebrates Traditional Religions Day on January 10, highlighting the Vodoun religion with rituals, dances, and cultural festivities, promoting cultural heritage, unity and tourism. These holidays foster community, cultural preservation and social cohesion.

Marginalisation

The historical marginalisation of traditional religious practices in Ghana, intensified by colonial and post-colonial policies favouring imported religions, has left deep scars on indigenous communities (Addai-Mununkum, 2023).

Introducing a public holiday for traditional religions can address these historical injustices, serving as a symbolic gesture of acknowledgement and rectification (Mbiti, 1991). Such recognition promotes inter-generational justice by affirming the worth and dignity of indigenous belief systems, ensuring a more equitable future for all Ghanaians. 

It encourages historical reflection, fostering a national consciousness about the impact of colonialism on religious freedom and cultural identity.

Recognising

Recognising traditional worship through a public holiday also enhances cultural preservation, promoting Ghana's rich heritage amid globalisation (Smith, 2006). It aligns with international human rights obligations and strengthens Ghana's reputation for cultural inclusivity.

This initiative would not only honour traditional practices but also serve as a strategic move to ensure their continuity, promoting national unity and social cohesion. It would contribute to sustainable cultural tourism by driving economic growth and creating opportunities for local communities.

Ultimately, recognising Traditional worship as a public holiday would embody moral and ethical principles of respect and gratitude towards one's ancestors, fostering interfaith harmony and reinforcing Ghana's commitment to a diverse, inclusive and equitable society.

Integral

Article 26 of the Ghanaian Constitution protects cultural practices and traditions, highlighting the significance of safeguarding the nation's diverse heritage.

Traditional worship, integral to Ghana's historical identity, includes rites, ceremonies and festivals. Establishing a public holiday for these practices would reaffirm the constitutional commitment to cultural rights and recognise their national value.

This alignment would promote Ghana's rich cultural diversity, ensuring the transmission of traditional practices to future generations amid globalisation's pressures (Appiah, 2012).

Additionally, such recognition would provide educational benefits, fostering appreciation and understanding of Ghana's cultural heritage. Adhering to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights in Articles 8 and 18, which mandate equal protection of all religions and cultural heritage, would uphold international obligations, enhance Ghana's global standing and serve as a model for cultural inclusivity.

Advocate

Stakeholders from various sectors should advocate for a public holiday for Traditional worship in Ghana to highlight constitutional equality, cultural preservation and social cohesion.

Ordinary citizens, parliamentarians, traditional leaders, the executive, judiciary, religious leaders, Christians, Muslims and Traditionalists should support this initiative to validate diverse spiritual beliefs, promote cultural heritage, ensure inclusive governance, uphold constitutional rights, foster interfaith solidarity and celebrate Ghana's cultural richness and diversity. 

Our ancestors are with heavy hearts!

The writer is a Traditionalist.
E-mail: [email protected]

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