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Thursday, 15 June, 2000, 16:20 GMT 17:20 UK
Christians and Muslims in harmony
Zetaheal worshippers
Some 5000 worshippers share the faith
By Kwaku Sakyi-Addo in Accra

The thought of Christians and Muslims worshipping together under one roof in West Africa would be out of the question one might think after the recent bloody clashes in Nigeria

But there is a religious sect in Accra, Ghana, which combines both Islam and Christianity.

It is called Zetaheal.

According to the faith's elders, Zetaheal is Hebrew for "Lean on me for your salvation".

It was established 25 years ago by Comfort Narh, then a dressmaker.

She says Angels spoke directly to her and asked her to bring Christians and Muslims together, because the founders of the two religions, Jesus Christ and the Prophet Muhammad, have a common ancestry.



We have to bring the two together before the world will have peace

Comfort Narh, Zethaheal founder

"Abraham had two sons - Isaac and Ishmael; Muhammad descended from Ishmael and Jesus descended from Isaac, so the two are brothers; Islam and Christianity are from one family," Lehem explains.

"We have to bring the two together before the world will have peace."

Membership of Zetaheal has been growing and now boasts at least 5,000 adherents - men and women, artists and artisans, teachers and students -- who originally were either just Muslims or Christians, but have now found common ground.

"I joined as a Muslim," says Muhammad Musah, a 25-year-old student.

"But I've learnt so much about Christianity and understood it that I don't consider myself as a Muslim anymore, I belong to both; I belong to Zetaheal."

Members worship together in their magnificent, sparkling-white temple with its twin towers in the Zongo-Junction suburb of the city, a neighbourhood that is both Christian and Muslim.

They put up the building using proceeds from their own co-operative plantations.

Teachings

Inside the temple, all worshippers must take off their footwear.

Members of the sect wear white. Those from a Muslim background sit on mats on the floor, and Christians sit on pews or chairs, each according to their original or preferred tradition.


Zetaheal church in Zongo, surburb of Accra
The home of Zetaheal combines the architecture of mixed faith

The congregation learns about the teachings of the Bible from a pastor, as well as those of the Koran from an Imam.

Said one recent convert to Zetaheal: "I never knew that the Muslim greeting, 'Asalaam alekum' meant 'Peace be unto you'. I thought it was something heathen until I went to Zetaheal; it's much better than Hello."

The Zetaheal choir sings in praise of Mohammad and Christ, as two equally great prophets sent to earth by the same God - or Allah.



Much of these conflicts between Christians and Muslims are quite needless

Rev Dr J.S.A Stevens, Theologian

Reverend Dr. J.S.A. Stevens is a theologian, and was formerly the President of the Methodist Church of Ghana. He worships with Zetaheal now and again.

Although he is not a member, he says he is comfortable with their principles.

"Much of these conflicts between Christians and Muslims are quite needless, because both faiths are worshipping the same creator and so Zetaheal is to the glory of God."

Islam and Christianity have run as two separate streams of religion flowing through the ages in parallel.

Zetaheal shows that Christians and Muslim can worship together.

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