The National Chief Imam of Ghana is a man of few words, but the 100-year-old Muslim cleric certainly knows how to make waves – by attending a Catholic Church service as part of his birthday celebrations.
The Chief Imam was received on arrival by the Parish Priest, Rev. Father Andrew Campbell.
Pictures of Sheikh Osman Sharubutu, sitting attentively in the pews of Accra’s Christ the King Catholic Church for an Easter service, went viral on social media.
The grand mufti, leader of Ghana’s Muslim community, wants to ensure that his legacy is peace – the fruit of inter-faith harmony, according to BBC News.
His church attendance was given even more resonance as on the day he was being pictured alongside parish priest Father Andrew Campbell, Islamist suicide bombers unleashed attacks in Sri Lanka, killing more than 250 people at churches and hotels.
Those on social media championing the imam’s approach described him as a light shining in the darkness.
Many social media users who spotted the Chief Imam at the Church said the move is a great effort towards religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence in the country.
Not everyone however, was happy – some critics condemned his actions as an abomination, for a Muslim to participate in Christian worship. But Sheikh Sharubutu insisted he was not worshipping but moving the relationship between Muslims and Christians from mere tolerance to engagement.
“The chief imam is changing the narrative about Islam from a religion of wickedness, a religion of conflict, a religion of hate for others, to a religion whose mission is rooted in the virtues of love, peace and forgiveness,” his spokesperson Aremeyao Shaibu told the BBC.
Sheikh Sharubutu has been Ghana’s top Muslim cleric for 26 years, and has always insisted the key tenets of Islam are rooted in peace and love, as his weekly sermons at Friday prayers at the Central Mosque in the capital attest.
Another favourite theme of his is a call to shun materialism, saying it only brings greed.
Fears had been entertained over the tolerance of various religious groups in the country after some Muslim youth vandalized property belonging to the Odorkor branch of Glorious Word Power Ministries after the church’s leader, Rev. Owusu Bempah who prophesied the death of the Chief Imam.
The Chief Imam later called the youth to order and urged calm among them.
Owusu Bempah subsequently visited the Chief Imam to apologize for the public prophesy.