Welcome ladies and gentlemen. I am Pastor Mensa Otabil. I have called this Press conference to address recent media references that seek to place my sermons and me in a partisan political position.
My objective is to clarify some misrepresentations of my sermons and to hopefully stop the running harassment against my integrity.
Before I address the issues at stake, I believe it would be useful to share a bit of my background and what I stand for.
Each one of us has been shaped by some experiences of the past. For me one of the most profound experiences that have shaped me occurred in my mid teens. At the age of fifteen, I experienced tragedy in my family. I lost my mother in one year and my father the following year. As you can imagine, it was a very overwhelming event in my life. It was an event that shaped so much of who I am today.
As a result of this tragedy, my secondary school education was placed in great jeopardy. My siblings and I were distributed to various homes to be cared for by different relatives. Something very remarkable happened during that time.
At the time when I thought my future had come to an end, friends of my mother who attended a Christian Fellowship with her came together and pitched in to pay my school fees. They were not rich people. They had their struggles but they opened their arms of generosity to help me. I owe so much to those Christian brethren.
Incidentally, it was during that time that I heard the call of God to serve Him. I started preparing myself for my ministry from that age. One of the major commitments I made to God was to be generous and to help people. I also committed to be an inspirational preacher who brings hope and encouragement.
When I started the International Central Gospel Church I had the opportunity to translate my commitments into action. One of the first things we did as a church was the establishment of an Educational Scholarship Scheme to assist boys and girls through secondary school.
Christians, Muslims, Hindus and traditionalists benefitted from this initiative. Most of the people we have helped are people who are where I used to be – orphans, deprived and distressed. To date, we continue to operate one of the largest non-governmental educational scholarship schemes in the country.
Because of my commitment to generosity, ICGC has provided several needy people and communities with help. We have provided portable water to people living in Buruli-ulcer endemic area.
We built a fully furnished boys dormitory for the Osu Children’s home. Currently, we are probably the largest private donor to the Children’s Cancer unit of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital.
Our church operates the largest private university in Ghana with almost 10,000 students. We continue to serve our country with that same spirit of generosity that was shown my siblings and I in our days of despair.
I have endeavoured through my years of ministry to encourage all people. When I speak to encourage people I speak from the core of my being. My messages speak to Christians of all shades, Muslims and a large segment of people who belong to different belief systems. I have endeavoured to be a bridge builder.
My church has active members with all shades of political opinion. They have comfortably sat under my ministry over the years because as a guide, I have strived to use the pulpit of the church for the preaching of the gospel of Christ and the upliftment of my hearers.
My pulpit is not for partisan politics. That explains why when various political leaders visit our church, we acknowledge them without giving them the platform to address the congregation.
For the past eighteen years, I have used the medium of radio and television to bring a message of hope, inspiration and empowerment to people. The ordinary people of Ghana will testify that I have never on any occasion used these media to promote parochial or partisan political interests. I have listeners all over the country. A lot of them do not share my faith but appreciate the inspiration I bring to them.
I have deliberately and consistently avoided making categorical statements on any of the hot button issues that have dominated the partisan political debate over the years. I keep a deliberate silence over matters that are situated in extreme partisanship. My messages have consistently spoken to the larger issues of hope, righteousness and justice.
In the last few weeks there has been an attempt to belittle by sermons in a most disturbing way. After years of carefully building my ministry I am being made to appear as a reckless and partisan clergyman.
I am a pastor. I am not a politician. I am not standing for any political office. I am not a member of any political party.
However, it seems a pattern is emerging where I become a political issue during election years. Even when I am ‘sitting my somewhere’ quietly, my name and voice get drafted into the political fray. In 2008, I became an issue when my name was said to be on a supposed death list. It attracted a lot of political heat. But as has been my practice, I kept silent.
This year, 2012, I have been drafted again. My voice and sermons have been sampled, spliced and manipulated to appear to take a political position on a very heated political issue. I have also been made to appear as taking a stand against one political group or the other.
When the first sound bite emerged misrepresenting me, the church issued a press statement clarifying our position but I personally kept silent. Notwithstanding the statement, the perpetrators of this treachery issued a second sound bite that had again been pieced together to misrepresent me. Again, I kept silent.
Last Friday, 9th November, 2012, a third sound bite was issued. That was the tipping point. That is when I realised that I was dealing with a marauding and bullying force that was bent on impugning my name and integrity without shame.
My normal response to such attacks would be to keep quiet and trust my integrity to speak for me in the end. My church members know that I don’t respond to personal attacks. But for the mischief and persistence, I would have remained quiet over this matter.
Let me state clearly that the sound bites that have been played with my voice have been taken totally out of context. In some cases, phrases from different messages I have preached over the years with no relation to each other have been mischievously pieced together to create the impression that I was making a current contribution to the on-going political debate.
This is defamatory. This is unethical. This is criminal. This is malicious. This is Machiavellian. This is evil.
It is a violation of my person and my integrity. It is a sign of grave impunity for any individual to seize a person’s thoughts without their consent and use it in a way that seeks to expose them to public hostility and disrespect. No one has the right to force their thoughts into my words. I own my thoughts. I own my words. I own my beliefs.
The significant observation is the apparent schizophrenic response of the purveyors of this agenda. In one breath they hailed me when the dubious sound bite seemed to favour their cause and in the next breath condemned and insulted me when the church came out to set the records straight.
There is a sinister force on the prowl in our nation. It is a force of impunity. It is a force of treachery. It is a force of evil.
To keep silent in such a situation is to allow evil to triumph.
I can handle it when people disagree with me. I can handle it when people debate the merits of something I have said. I love debate. I can take criticism. What I cannot take is evil.
When political operatives sample, splice and edit a pastor’s words to mean something other than what was intended, and then go ahead to lift those words from their proper context and place them within a partisan context…that is immoral.
When political operatives hijack a pastor’s words, manipulate them to build partisan jingles and play them on party information vans across the country…that is mischief.
When political operatives with sinister motives deliberately position a pastor to become a target for ridicule, animosity and hostile attacks…that is evil.
I continue to receive reports from all parts of the nation that my voice is being played on various media platforms to support or denounce some political party.
So who are the people behind these acts? Who are those hiding in the shadows and orchestrating this evil agenda? Who are these people who are willing to sacrifice the integrity of individuals and societal values in pursuit of their parochial political interest? What will they do next?
Today it is Mensa Otabil who is being violated; who will it be tomorrow? When does society rise up to speak for a citizen whose rights are being trampled upon with force and impunity?
I call upon all men and women of conscience to deeply reflect on these issues. Ask yourself these questions: Is it right for political operatives to manipulate any citizen’s words to suit their own interests? Would you consider it fair if you were treated that way? Is this the path we want our country to pursue? Is this how we want our politics to be run? Is this the future we want to bequeath to the next generation?
I call upon all people of faith – Christians and Moslems, Pastors and Imams – to demand for righteousness, justice and fairness in our national discourse. Although we may have political preferences we must have the character to rise above partisanship. We must help bring honour into our political space.
I kindly call upon the President of the Republic to rise up and speak on this issue. With all due respect, sir, although you may not be aware of these developments the perpetrators of these blatant acts of impunity are largely affiliates and surrogates of your party.
Today, I come as a simple pastor. I do not have the machinery of state behind me. I do not have a police force or a military detachment to defend me. I do not have serial callers or a media machinery to spin my story. All I have is the God whom I have served over the years. He is my strength and fortress. It is to him that I commend this matter.
God bless our homeland Ghana.