Israel pastors' trip being sponsored by private sector - Prez Mahama

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

The meeting with the clergy was to discuss the annual prayer and thanksgiving service scheduled for April 7, 2013.

But the president used the occasion to express worry that the whole intent about the pilgrimage has been misunderstood and generated negative responses from some Christian organisations.

He said the pilgrimage was being sponsored by a private sector organisation and that the government was only playing a facilitating role.

President Mahama read a portion of the letter that the government wrote to the various religious groups on the pilgrimage.

It reads: "Government of the Republic of Ghana has secured sponsorship to take 200 Ghanaians from the Christian community on a pilgrimage to Israel."

The president said the fact that the letter stated that the government had secured sponsorship in the letter "means that it is not being sponsored by the government”.

"It is a private sector organisation that says it will be able to sponsor it. The government is only playing a facilitating role," he said.

He said it was unfortunate that the misunderstanding had led some groups to indicate that they would not want to participate.

President Mahama said the government was ready to listen to the suggestion from the clergy as to what it wanted it to do on the issue.

"If we should abandon it, we can tell the private sponsor that you do not want to participate or if you want to deal with the private sponsor directly", he said.

Government has come under a barrage of criticism from sections of the public following reports that it was sponsoring 200 Ghanaian pastors on a pilgrimage to Israel at a cost of US$2 million.

The Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference has responded to the issue and said government has no business organising pilgrimages for Christians or any other group of religious adherents.

The President of the Catholic Bishops Conference, Bishop Joseph Osei Bonsu has said the money to be used in sponsoring the trip could be used in ameliorating the circumstance of rural dwellers in the provision of sanitary, water and electricity facilities.

The Minister of Sports, Mr Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, who is coordinating the trip on behalf of government have explained the cost of the sponsorship package for the 200 pilgrims, including air fare, hotel accommodation and feeding, was approximately $600,000 and not US$2 million as had been reported by a section of the media.

Among members of the clergy who were at the flagstaff house were the Presiding Archbishop and General Overseer of the Christian Action Faith Ministries, Archbishop Duncan Williams and the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, Rev Prof Emmanuel Martey.

Organisations represented at the meeting included the Christian Council of Ghana, Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference, the National Association of  Charismatic and Christian Churches, Women's Aglow International, Council for African Indigenous Churches, Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council and the Council of Independent Churches.

Story by Musah Yahya Jafaru

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