The Catholic Church in Ghana has launched the Sahel Peace Initiative (SPI) phase II to help promote peace, social cohesion and raise awareness on violent extremism.
The SPI is a peace project being rolled out by the Church with funding from the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to create awareness on threats of terrorism, promote social cohesion through advocacy and build the resilience of communities affected by conflicts in the Sub-region.
It would also work with relevant stakeholders to find mitigating measures to resolving conflicts through mediation and dialogue and respond to humanitarian needs of people affected by the threats and conflicts.
The project is being coordinated by the National Catholic Secretariat (NCS) and being implemented by the Navrongo-Bolgatanga Catholic Diocesan Development Organisation (NABOCADO), a Faith development organization.
Speaking at the launch of the project in Bolgatanga, the Upper East Regional Capital, Most Reverend Philip Naameh, the President of the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference, said currently, the Central Sahel region of West Africa was experiencing upsurge in violence due to increased extremism, weak national institutions and diminishing national resources.
He said poverty, high levels of unemployment, corruption and unequal access to capital had fostered a state of hopelessness, which had given rise to the series of conflicts in neighbouring countries and Ghana was no exception.
This, he said, had led to the migration of millions of people in search of security with women and children being the most affected.
The lack of comprehensive enabling environment for the citizens had made the people particularly the youth vulnerable to be recruited into terrorist groups to cause violence and conflicts, he added.
“Once we create this vulnerability for our youth and many of our citizens, then, we invite the conflict even without intending it.
“Evidence of this is the reported incidents of activities of extremists in some neighbouring countries like Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and along some border communities in Northern Ghana, giving widespread perception that governments in the Sahel are failing to provide political, social and economic services,” he said.
Most Reverend Naameh, noted that it was imperative for governments to work with local communities and civil society organisations including religious leaders, to rebuild trust in local and national institutions and rekindle civic participation.
Most Reverend Alfred Agyenta, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Navrongo-Bolgatanga, indicated that the project was timely considering the current instability in the Upper East Region, with many lives and properties being lost to ravaging conflicts.
“In her present state of vulnerability, the region is not only severely exposed to external threats of violence and insecurity but it is also the first point of call for the displaced and traumatised people of the neighbouring countries looking for safe haven,” he said.
Mr Daniel Mumuni, the Country Representative, CRS, said violent extremism had increased the number of displaced persons by 40 per cent in the Subregion at the end of 2021 and the persistent communal conflicts in Ghana put the country at risk of being attacked.
He said the project aimed to empower the Catholic Church to take ownership and leadership in promoting peace and building cohesive society to ensure that individuals living in Ghana experienced greater levels of peace, social cohesion and resiliency and provide humanitarian services to people in crisis.
Mr Stephen Yakubu, the Upper East Regional Minister, commended the Catholic Church in Ghana and its partners for their contribution to national development over years and said he was optimistic that the SPI would boost the efforts made so far to restore peace in the region especially in Bawku, Doba and Kandiga.