In January of 1996, I arrived in Bishop Herman College (BHC), as a first year student to a Catholic School, to my dismay; I later got to know that of the student population of over one thousand, we had only eight Muslims.
Four out of the eight were in my batch, so what that meant was that my year group had the highest number of Muslims.
Despite the small number, the school provided us with a decent Mosque, as well as all that was required to help us observe the five daily prayers.
This was a Catholic school, we all knew it, at least our parents did, if you might want to consider the ages at which we enrolled, yet they supported us when we made that choice. It is said that when you go to Rome, you do what the Romans do, so without any hesitation we complied with the school rules.
Every Sunday, all of us assemble in the Chapel for Mass, in fact in the prospectus, we were asked to bring Kente cloth, White -White, that is white trousers and white shirt all was for Church Service, failure to send those items and you will have an axe to grind with the seniors.
Of my three years in that school, I did not see my going to church and partaking in any school activities, as an inducement for me to convert from Islam to Christianity. I am who I am today, because I was molded to believe that “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers that you do unto me”
The beauty of the freedom we had in school was that during Ramadan (Fasting), we were given preferential treatment, because we fast from dawn to dusk, the school authorities made special arrangement for us to be served differently during the thirty days that we observe the Ramadan fast.
When Fasting was over and it is time for Idul-Fitr, we were permitted to come home and join our families celebrate the occasion.
Once every term, we had what we call “Pork show”, a Pig is slaughter for the student body, during those times, our (Muslims) food is always different. We do not eat with the whole school, ours is prepared different, because the authorities know that Islam abhors pig meat.
We were made aware everyday that despite being in a catholic school, we are Muslims and that we do not share the same faith, we were given the leverage to practice our faith and manifest it.
You can consider me a little stubborn while in school, I remember those days when I courted trouble because anytime it was time for Holy Communion, I will join the queue and go and receive it.
Unknown to me, you had to place your left hand in your right hand when receiving the communion, our school Father, who I have had brushes with on several occasions, had taken a special interest in me and had observed me over time.
One day, when I got to him, he simply asked me to stand aside, after the Church service, he asked me to dig six feet that was later used as a dumping site.
I had several unpalatable encounters with him, to the extent that one day, he asked me “ Razak why didn’t you attend any Islamic school, but rather decided to come to Bishop Herman and worry us”. He specifically mentioned T.I Ahmadiya.
He took an interest in me throughout my period in Bishop Herman, he will sometimes scold and punish me, there are other times, he will just send for me and give me goodies, he even became my escape route for most of the bad things I did, whiles in school.
If I am giving the opportunity again to go back to Secondary School again, ten times I will choose Bishop Herman College, I will never wish for any school and one day, when I become a father, my son is sure to go there.
Most of the friends I have today, I made them in Bishop Herman; the school had shaped me, both spiritually and intellectually.
I know my father will not be happy to read this, but there were times that together with a friend, we lead praise and worship every Sunday, it was called Benediction on campus.
During those times, I did not see myself as a Muslim, or my colleagues as Christians, we saw each other as brothers, seeking knowledge. We did things together; we shared a lot that is still with us today, years after school.
What has changed today that, after more than ten years, when I left school, we are debating about religious rights.
One thing I have noticed in my short sojourn on earth is that religion unites us, rather than divides us, what divides us, is politics.
Ghana is a circular state and so no one religion can claim dominance, we have co-existed and even inter-married. We should continue that time-tested tradition and stop the ugly noises about whether Muslims in Christian schools should be compelled to go to Church.
We all worship one God; it is the means to reaching him that is different. I read some time ago that about 99.9 percent of us, our religious affiliation is determined by our place of birth and parent. Chances are that if your parents are Muslims, you will be a Muslim, if your parents are Christian; you are 99.9 percent likely to be one.
It is therefore safe to conclude that our religious affiliations are not by choice, but by circumstance of birth and surroundings.
For me though, despite all I did in school, it never affected who I was and what I believe, because I had a good and solid upbringing. I believe that I am privileged to
be a Muslim and I will die as one.
We cannot continue this senseless debate, it has never been who we are, this is a recipe for religious intolerance.
When any teacher or school crosses the sane line, let us all rally to condemn him or her or the school, but please let the status quo remain, it did not change most of us, who attended Christian or Mission schools.