The ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) is sending over 200 pastors on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Israel, amidst serious protests from the governing bodies of all the major Christian groups selected for the trip.
The move is ostensibly aimed at winning back goodwill from the clergy who have been at the receiving end of caustic verbal assaults from key members of the NDC.
They are also to pray for President John Mahama, especially in view of the prophecy predicting doom for him as well as the court case challenging his presidency.
A letter dated February 15, 2013 and signed by the coordinator of the John Dramani Mahama 2012 Campaign, Elvis Afriyie Ankrah written on the letterhead of the State Protocol Office (Reference Number SPO.C/09), a copy of which is available to Daily Guide spelt out the details. Elvis Afryie Ankrah, now Minister of Youth and Sports, wrote: “The Government of the Republic of Ghana has secured sponsorship to take two hundred (200) Ghanaian from the Christian community on a pilgrimage to Israel. Your Council has been allocated tem (10) slots from the list,” asking them to furnish his office with the names.
Checks by Daily Guide confirmed that indeed, the key Christian bodies had been officially served with their invitation letters. However, most of them declined, citing wrong timing. When contacted by Daily Guide on Monday, Mr. Afriyie-Ankrah confirmed the invitation but declined to give any further details by simply saying, “Discussions are still ongoing.
However, investigations by Daily Guide indicate that when the letters hit the tables of the various Christian groups, they convened a quick meeting to discuss the mouth-watering proposal.
At the end of the meeting, the pastors collectively agreed to reject the NDC government’s overtures.
The General Secretary of the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council, Apostle Samuel Yaw Yirenkyi, through the administrator at the office of the Council, Prince Odum, confirmed the rejection to Daily Guide, saying the Christian bodies “collectively agreed that the timing was not right.”
According to Apostle Yaw Yirenkyi, the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council, the National Catholic Secretariat, the Christian Council of Ghana, chaired by Rev Prof. Emmanuel Asante and the National Association of Charismatic Churches (NACC)-headed by Archbishop Nicholas Duncan-Williams, rejected the proposal from the government.
The council’s reasons include the fact that Ghana is currently bedeviled with numerous socio-economic crisis including agitations for pay increases by workers such as doctors, pressures on the country’s finances, erratic supply of utilities, among others.
For these groups of preachers, they would show insensitivity to the needs of Ghanaians if they accepted the NDC’s largesse.
“To me, looking at the economic issues at stake, I don’t think that it the timing is right, what is the idea?” Bishop Addai Mensah-the General Overseer of Gospel-Light International Church and a member of NACC, told Daily Guide in a telephone conversation on Monday.
The Bishop, who spoke passionately about the dire economic straits in the country, thought sending pastors to Israel was a misplaced priority by the NDC government.
“Though it is a good thing, not at this time; we have a crisis at hand, as a nation, we should have priorities,” he said.
“To me, I don’t think this is what we need. If I have been given the opportunity, I will not take it. I will say let’s do the right thing first, because we are in crisis,” Bishop Addai Mensah noted.
Daily Guide sources said despite the overwhelming disapproval of the overture from the NDC, some shortlisted persons were feverishly packing bag and baggage in anticipation of the holy trip sometime this week, with a good per diem.
The pastors were supposed to have submitted details of 10 nominated members each by the close of February 19, 2012, to the office co-ordinating the pilgrimage.
The total number of Christian pilgrims marked for sponsorship by the NDC will peak at 200 and the government is giving assurances that all those who embark on the journey would be made to return. “We advise that the selection criteria will be such that these members of the team will come back with the rest of the team.”
It is unclear the size of the budget for this latest trip, as all attempts to get further details from Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah yielded a blank.
This is the second time that the current NDC government has sponsored pastors to Israel.
In 2012, then President Evans Atta Mills reportedly sent scores of pastors to Jerusalem ostensibly to pray for him as his health condition deteriorated rapidly.
The pastors, in the first trip, were allegedly given a whopping $10,000 each as per diem.
This amount is said to exclude their transportation fares and hotel bills.
If similar considerations are given to the current batch of government sponsored pilgrimage, the cost could peak at several millions of Ghana cedis.
Meanwhile, it is unclear which entities the NDC government claims it secured sponsorship from for the trip.
Source: Daily Guide