It is not unusual for religious and traditional leaders to speak for the generality of the masses, especially on issues that concern their socio-economic and political needs.
This is because, these leaders command a lot of respect, and are seen as the 'voices of reason and direction', whose counsel or reprimand should not be taken lightly. They are supposed to speak under circumstances that unite, rather than divide the country, or create dialogue, rather than monologue among feuding factions.
It is, therefore, with great trepidation that The Chronicle views the action or inaction, of the former Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Ghana, Retired Reverend Dr. Samuel Asante-Antwi, when he delivered a sermon at the Thanksgiving Service for the newly-elected flagbearer of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, at the Ridge Church in Accra, last Saturday.
During the sermon, the man of God was reported to have virtually endorsed the Nana Addo ticket, and made some very scathing remarks about the ruling government.
Much as Rev. Asante Antwi has decided to indentify with a particular political ideology, it is still very difficult to separate his religious stature from his political garb.
The content and tone of Rtd. Rev. Dr. Samuel Asante-Antwi's sermon on the said day could, as well, be equated to partisan political talk at a rally ground.
And, when our religious leaders, who are supposed to live above board, appear to descend into the abyss of the bumpy political terrain, the spiritual aura covering them is unveiled, and thus lending them to the vagaries and frailties of mortal insults.
The Chronicle totally agrees with Reverend Dr. Fred Deegbe of the Christian Council, when he told Citi FM in an interview, "Some of the things that he (Rev. Asante Antwi) said, we are all concerned about them. The lack of classrooms, pupils learning under trees and the rest, but I think those comments can be made across board without identifying it with any government... Even though you are entitled to your opinion, sometimes because of the position you hold, or how people look up to you, they think that you can be the voice of moderation, and the voice of neutrality, so if they attach these labels to you, it compromises your stand..."
Speaking to the same issue on Joy FM, Mr. Kojo Asante of the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), also said the partisan comments by Rev. Asante Antwi reduces the space for conflict resolution in the country, given that the position he occupies offers the platform for all shades of political opinions to solve their differences, and once that mediation role by church leaders is compromised, Mr. Asante believes the country's political landscape will be in trouble.
This obvious gaffe by the former Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church seems to have received support from a section of Ghanaians, who have likened the situation to the exploits of revered spiritual leaders like Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, Martin Luther King Jnr. of the U.S. and the Dalai Lama of Tibet, who were, or are vocal on human rights and political issues.
However, one must draw the distinction that all these leaders operated under governance structures that closed their democratic space by various degrees of political, geographical and racial isolation in their respective countries.
In deciding to tread on this partisan political path, Rev. Asante Antwi must, first, think about the other side of the political divide, who are also part of his flock. When our actions tend to segregate more than integrate church members, then we must begin to give unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and unto God what is God's.