Government has denied claims it is spending over two million dollars on pastors making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Reports have been rife about the intended pilgrimage with many critics questioning the priorities of government.
Some also expressed outrage over the supposed cost of the trip which was reported by the Daily Guide Newspaper to be in the region of $2 million.
But in a statement signed by the Youth and Sports Minister Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, government described the reports as “frivolous” “untrue” “sensational” and calculated at creating public disaffection towards the government.
Whilst admitting that government is coordinating the process to have pastors flown to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage, he said the amount being quoted is far in excess of what has been allocated to the project.
“The total cost of the sponsorship package for the 200 pilgrims which includes Airfare, hotels and feeding is approximately 600,000 dollars, and not 2million US dollars as sensationally claimed by the false reports. It is absolutely untrue that each pilgrim will be given $10,000 as per diem,” the statement said.
Below is the full statement
My attention has been drawn to media reports regarding a planned pilgrimage of some 200 Ghanaian Pastors to Jerusalem, Israel, under the auspices of the Ghana government.
The report contains a lot of inaccuracies and misleading assertions intended to cause mischief, ridicule and public disaffection for the government.
Ordinarily, I would have ignored these frivolous reports and treated them with the contempt they deserve. However, I deem it necessary to state the facts in order to disabuse the minds of right thinking and discerning Ghanaians of the negative impression the reports seeks to create.
The media crusade led by the Daily Guide Newspaper in their Tuesday, March 12, 2013 edition and another on Thursday, March 14, 2013 edition with issue number “NO. 061/13” stated that the government is sponsoring some 200 Pastors affiliated to the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) for a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Israel at the cost of 2million dollars.
In addition, the reports claimed that the intention of the sponsorship was to show appreciation to the Pastors for supporting the NDC, and also enable them to pray in Jerusalem for President John Dramani Mahama to avert a doomsday prophecy about his life.
The Daily Guide newspaper report claimed that each Pastor would be given $10,000 thus amounting to $2million.
This ridiculous claim is supposed to be for only their per-diem.
Further, the reports also stated that the General Overseer of the Royal House Chapel International was part of the trip, “particularly due to his close relations with the organizer of the trip, Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, the Campaign Co-ordinator of the John Dramani Mahama 2012 Presidential Campaign and currently the Minister of Youth and Sports.”
The agenda to create a sensational news story for gossip and discussion can be seen by the claim that some of the Pastors and groups have rejected the offer because they deem it wrong to spend a huge sum of money on a pilgrimage when the government needs resources to tackle socio -economic problems.
Clearly, the above stated issues and points raised by the said paper are total fabrications and a pack of lies geared at tarnishing the image of the President and government.
Simple Facts of the Christian Pilgrimage to Jerusalem are as follows: Over the years, various Christian and Church organizations have called on government to sponsor and address the various challenges they have encountered during their holy trips to Israel.
It is in response to these several calls that Government then decided to facilitate and coordinate the Pilot Pilgrimage to Israel, to help address some of the challenges Christian groups have encountered on past trips which is nothing new just as government has been doing for the Holy Muslim pilgrimage of Hajj to Mecca.
In the process, and with the increase in the number of pilgrims, some Ghanaian philanthropists offered to provide sponsorship for this year's trip.
Government then held several discussions and consultation meetings with key stakeholders and subsequently, the decision was duly communicated to the leadership of the various Christian bodies through official letters and phone calls.
Contrary to claims that this is a thank you gesture to Pastors affiliated to the NDC party, government had no role in the selection process. It is important to note that, Government left it to the various groups to use their own criteria to select prospective pilgrims based on the number allotted to them.
As a matter of fact, as at the time of writing this Release, we are yet to receive a list from the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council, where , Rev Sam Korankye Ankrah is the Vice Chairman. This exposes the total fabrications the Daily Guild Newspaper has carved out to say that the General Overseer of the Royal House Chapel International was part of the trip, “particularly due to his close relations with the organizer of the trip, Elvis Afriyie Ankrah.
Again, my role for the trip was to coordinate the Pilot Pilgrimage for the government and has nothing to do with my former position as the John Mahama 2012 Campaign Coordinator.
A number of the Christian bodies welcomed the initiative, however although the Christian Council of Ghana, were happy with the initiative they responded in a letter that they could not provide representatives for the trip because of time constraints and NOT because they did not want to participate as stated by the said paper. In fact they intimated in their letter to be part of any subsequent pilgrimages when given sufficient notice.
The total cost of the sponsorship package for the 200 pilgrims which includes Airfare, hotels and feeding is approximately 600,000 dollars, and not 2million US dollars as sensationally claimed by the false reports. It is absolutely untrue that each pilgrim will be given $10,000 as per diem.
It is also untrue that during the tenure of late Prof. JEA Mills, he organized a similar trip and gave each person $10,000 as per diem.
Again for the records, the government is NOT sponsoring the trip from the state coffers but only facilitating and coordinating the process and has no involvement in the selection of the prospective pilgrims from the various bodies that would suggest an “NDC Pastors Pilgrimage.”
Finally, it is deeply heart-warming that even at the time of releasing this statement, several Christian organizations, churches and pastors have requested, appealed and submitted names to be added to the list. For them, the opportunity to trace the footsteps of Jesus Christ and walk where he walked, pray for their families, their churches and their country Ghana, is an opportunity they do not want to miss and a potential life transforming event.
Signed by Hon. Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, Coordinator, Jerusalem pilgrimage