Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, last week organised their annual series of prayer breakfast meetings in a bid to mobilize the international community of Churches and government leaders “to align themselves in prayer with God’s purpose for Israel and Jerusalem”. Ghana’s Minister for Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, was invited as a special speaker at this year’s event.
Leading the charge for a prayerful international fraternity, “the Knesset’s invitation resonates with current events across the world and the need for peace and thankfulness. This call to prayer is not only symbolic, it also sends a powerful reminder to all kindred spirits about our commitment to doing the will of the God of Abraham,” said Ken Ofori-Atta on the sidelines of the event.
As the birthplace of Abrahamism, which consists of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Jerusalem appears as the likely historical environment for an international prayer hub that speaks to the three major religions. “Given the symbolic nature of Jerusalem, this call should be seen as an inclusive introspective exercise for the major religions around the world and especially in Africa.”
Ghana’s invitation to speak at this year’s prayer breakfast meeting echoes the aspirations of the founding members of Israel. From its inception, in 1897, the movement for a Jewish State has aligned itself with Africa’s struggle for independence and self-determination. And in his speech at the Knesset, Ken Ofori-Atta reminded the Israeli parliament of their longstanding solidarity with Africa through the words of the forerunners of the Jewish state, Dr Theodor Herzl and Golda Meir.
Herzl and Meir in the 1900s and 1950s, respectively, expressed their enthusiasm “to assist in the redemption of the African peoples… [and] work with Africa, side by side, in their fields and in their workshops.” In Golda Meir’s words: “All we ask from Africa is a return of friendship”
A few decades down the line, the Abrahamist culture has gained strength across Africa and the continent is projected to hold the world’s biggest Christian population by 2060, according to recent data from Pew Research Center.
Read the full speech given by Ken Ofori-Atta at the Knesset’s breakfast meeting below.
Remarks by KEN OFORI-ATTA, Minister for Finance,
Republic of Ghana Reception at the KNESSET,
Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast
Jerusalem, Israel, June 5, 2019
The Honorable Speaker of the Knesset, Honorable Members of the Knesset, Co-Chairs of the Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast Movement, Hon Member Robert Ilatov, US Congresswoman Michele Bachman and Director of JPBM Albert Veksler, Fellow distinguished participants from 65 countries and my colleagues from Ghana:
1. I am deeply humbled and honored to be here and I bring you warmest greetings from the Government, the good people of Ghana and our President, Nana Akufo-Addo, whom many of you met and listened to at the National Prayer Breakfast in February in Washington DC when he gave his inspiring testimony.
2. It is both a joy and a privilege to join the Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast movement, in Jerusalem in response to the call to the nations by the Knesset, to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the prosperity of Israel. It is very significant that this “gathering of Nations” is a call to Christians by the Knesset, which, itself, literally means "the gathering."
3. Last year, in September 2018, we hosted the first, albeit modest, Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast in Ghana. It was, however, the first ever on the continent of Africa! We are committed to ensuring that this modest beginning, like the mustard seed, develops into a vibrant part, and significant member of the global Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast Movement.
4. We recall that part of the 70 years of Israel’s statehood includes a bold policy, initiated by the then Foreign Minister, and later Prime Minister, Golda Meir in the late 1950s, to support the nation-building efforts of the newly independent African nations. This bold initiative of Golda Meier was manifesting the belief of Ben Gurion and thus linked to the aspiration of the founder of the movement for a Jewish State, Dr Theodor Herzl who, in 1902, wrote in his novel Altneuland – Old-new Land - that “...once I have witnessed the redemption of the Jews, my own people, I wish also to assist in the redemption of the African peoples”. Golda Meir, thus gave practical expression to this aspiration. As she explained it then; “it has fallen on me to implement Dr Herzl’s vision”, and she added “...We shall work with Africa, side by side, in their fields and in their workshops. All we ask from Africa is a return of friendship”
5. My own country, Ghana, was a major beneficiary of this initiative which among others, was instrumental to the setting up of our Air Force, where my mother-in-law Squadron Leader Melody Danquah became the first female pilot in Africa; the shipping line, “Black Star line” and in Agriculture which has Rev Kwabena Darko joining your Kibbutz in 1959 and now the most renown Poultry Farmer in Ghana.
6. What is remarkable about this bold initiative was Golda Meir’s insistence that this was NOT Development Aid but International Cooperation...if only the world had heeded her call then!
7. Perhaps more than the early years of our independence, the Nation-building experience of Israel is even more relevant to us now. The President of Ghana, His Excellency President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has recently made a bold declaration of a “Ghana Beyond Aid”; a vision of an assertive, confident nation that relies on its own resources, especially her people and their spirituality for its transformation and to create prosperity for all.
8. If there is one country that both understands this, and has also demonstrated in 70 years that it is doable, it certainly is Israel.
9. The decision of the Knesset, under Member Ilatov’s vision, to call for prayer from all Nations for the peace of Jerusalem and Israel, through the establishment of the Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast movement, is prophetic and affirms the importance of God in nation-building. This resonates with our own conviction as a government that ultimately, it is the Lord - the God of Heaven - who will prosper us! And for this, He has given us a spirit of power and boldness to do the work. Isaiah 2:2-3 reminds us that all nations shall flow to Jerusalem; while Psalm 122 calls for us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and then promises nations who heed this call, that “they shall prosper that love thee (Jerusalem). This call to pray for the peace of Jerusalem is, therefore, a redemptive call to the over 2 billion Christians around the world and the 70 spiritual nations. Distinguished participants representing the 65 Nations here present, let us thank Robert, Michele and Albert for this amazing opportunity to be blessed!
10. In Ghana, 70% of the population of 30 million are Christians; and we are committed to doing God’s will, in Christ, and to put God, like all other faiths, at the center of our nation-building efforts. To give practical expression to this, our President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has initiated the building of a National Cathedral that takes its inspiration from the Tabernacle, and is aimed at providing the infrastructure to focus the gaze of the Nation and Africa on the Almighty and therefore the peace of Jerusalem! Israel and the Nations of the JPBM should join us to transform Ghana, this first independent African Nation and the first to host a Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast meeting in Africa, to build the National Cathedral as a living monument to mobilize Africa to eternally, look East, and pray for the peace of Jerusalem
11. So as we join you, and the representatives of the nations, to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, we also pray that the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall guard all of our hearts and your thoughts in Jesus Christ. We indeed look forward to a new era of renewed cooperation between Israel and Ghana and Africa and we do so with the offer of friendship, which Golda Meir asked for.
12. My friends, God is doing a NEW thing and may HIS name be praised! May His Spirit cover this land and all of us gathered here! May Jerusalem triumph in peace and wholeness! SHALOM
Thank you for this privilege and thank you for hosting us.