News Release

The Church of Jesus Christ Joins Muslim Communities in Peace-building Efforts in West Africa

Leaders focus on interfaith unity and religious freedom

Elder S. Gifford Nielsen with Muslim leaders in front of the Accra Ghana Temple in August 2023.2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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In 2023, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Africa West Area and the Islamic community in West Africa have forged a relationship built on a mutual desire to strengthen interfaith cooperation, advocate for religious freedom and tolerance and engage in peace-building efforts.

Throughout the countries of West Africa, members of the Church have joined with their Muslim neighbors to share their commonly held beliefs like faith in God, prophets and scriptures, and holy places. They have worked together to promote peace and interfaith unity in dealing with the harsh realities of intolerance and religious profiling. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated, “The common beliefs, values, and practices in both faiths extend beyond any political, ethnic, or cultural boundaries.” In the Africa West Area, these words have been put into practice, with multiple examples of the two Abrahamic faiths meeting and working hand in hand to build peace and increase understanding.

In April 2023, the Takoradi Ghana Stake Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the host of this year’s Eid Mubarak festival after Ramadan. The Church was made aware that the Muslims in the Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolis did not have access to a facility large enough to accommodate the gathering of celebrants expected at the festival. The presidency of the Takoradi Ghana Stake offered the grounds of the stake center for the important celebration, an offer gratefully accepted by Muslim Leaders. The following June, the stake center again hosted over 1,500 Muslims celebrating Eid al-Adha, with prayers being led by Imam Alhaji Umar Sabutey.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong, on a 10-day tour of the Africa West Area, met with His Eminence Sheikh Dr. Osman Nuhu Sharubutu, the National Chief Imam, and Grand Mufti of the Republic of Ghana. The 104-year-old cleric is the leader of over 6 million Muslims in Ghana. During the meeting, the Chief Imam noted his focus on inter-faith relations in Ghana. “The basis of our relationships with other religions is simple,” he said. “We do everything together as brothers and sisters, and we do it in love, without conflict.”

Later in the year, the National Chief Imam made a rare visit to the Africa West Area offices of the Church of Jesus Christ. The Chief Imam chose to visit the Area offices, even though he had not been feeling well. “We understand the significance of your visit here today and are humbled at your sacrifice,” said Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, President of the Africa West Area. “We want nothing more than to link arms with our Muslim brothers to trumpet peace throughout the great land of Ghana.”

Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, General Authority Seventy and President of the Africa West Area of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (left), meets with Prof. Ibrahim Ahmad Maqari, Imam of the Nigerian National Mosque.2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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The Strengthening Families Conference, held in Abuja, Nigeria, and sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, brought together educators, and religious, government, community, and traditional leaders from throughout the world to discuss important issues relating to families. Muslim clerics from throughout West Africa participated as speakers and panel members throughout the conference. Muslim educators were also a major part of the Church-sponsored African Consortium for Law and Religious Studies held in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, in May 2023. The theme of the consortium was Law, Religion, and Reconciliation in Africa.

The Church also opened its doors to Muslim friends to attend meetings and tour facilities. Muslim leaders have attended stake conferences and other meetings throughout West Africa and were involved in an interfaith religious freedom conference in Cotonou, Benin, and an interfaith youth summit in Koforidua, Ghana. Leaders from the Church of Jesus Christ also visited mosques, with Elder Gong leading a group that visited the Grand Mosque in Accra, Ghana, and Elder Nielsen met with Muslim leaders and toured the Grand Mosque in Abuja, Nigeria. In August, Elder Nielsen welcomed members of the advisory board of the National Chief Imam to the area offices in Accra, where they met with Church leaders, visited the temple and missionary training center, and learned of the various Church-sponsored programs in West Africa.

Humanitarian projects throughout West Africa have benefitted Muslim communities. In The Gambia, a country with an Islamic population of over 95%, the Church built boreholes in 18 villages. The donation ceremonies were attended by the first lady of The Gambia. The branch in Banjul, The Gambia, also worked with a Muslim women’s group, on a cleanup project to celebrate the anniversary of the Relief Society. The Church donated to Islamic Schools in Abuja, Nigeria, and Bandu and Accra, both in Ghana. The Church also worked with Daybreak Vision Project to provide over 500 cataract surgeries in the Muslim community of Wa, Ghana.

In November, the Africa West Area Presidency of the Church again visited the Nigerian National Mosque in Abuja, Nigeria. They were accompanied by Area Seventies and mission leaders throughout the Africa West Area. Elder Nielsen met with the Imam of the mosque, Prof. Ibrahim Ahmad Maqari, and discussed the creation of the Islamic Centre for Peace building, Research and Development. The Church leaders committed to partnering with this foundation to achieve their common objectives of interfaith peace and religious freedom in Nigeria.

In promoting peace and advocating for religious freedom and tolerance, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Muslims throughout West Africa have proven to be effective and innovative partners. In a world where tension between religions is prevalent, they have shown that fostering conversation and friendship between leaders of different faiths is a powerful way to promote peace and nonviolent solutions to conflicts.

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