Democracy without peace is no democracy

Mon, 19 Nov 2012 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Saturday, November 17, 2012

For obvious reasons, it is not often that I bother my head over pronouncements by the country’s so-called Men of God. Many of them have over the years preached virtue but practised vice and haven’t impressed me. Their deeds have overshadowed the shining examples set by the good ones among them whom we seek to emulate but get deflected away from by the bad nuts who grab our attention and revulsion!

Human as they are, they are fallible, but refuse to acknowledge it, hiding behind their calling to create an air of infallibility in which they absorb themselves and hide behind to do anti-social deeds. Woefully, they fail to diminish the sepulchre that they are—white on the outside but rotten within. We reject them.

That is why I always take with a pinch of salt whatever comes from these Men-of-God. Not this time, though. I am departing from my self-imposed norm for a good cause. The Metropolitan Archbishop of Accra, Most Rev. Charles Gabriel Palmer-Buckle, has called on Ghanaians to hold politicians and other office seekers accountable for what they say so that they will not take the electorate for granted.

“As we say, let them walk their talk. Let people feel responsible for what they are saying. The days are gone when people would only look at their origin or a certain political coloration before voting,” he said,

when addressing the Catholic Law Students’ Guild at the Ghana School of Law in Accra on Thursday on “Election 2012 and the role of the Catholic Law student”’ (Ghanaweb, November 17, 2012).

Bu his key message is about PEACE: “Encourage people to be peaceful. We live in a world where people monger fear. The world has heard a lot of violence, a lot of nonsense; let us encourage peace. Rise up and work for peace,” he charged. The Archbishop’s perspective on peace-making is laudable: “Believe it or not, it is not the political party in power that creates development; it is the peace that is in a country that allows all to bring their ideas together which brings about development,” he explained.

His message is for all Ghanaians, especially those whose status in society makes them worth looking up to for motivation. Are they those leading efforts to make peace or those fast preventing peace-making? I agree with the Archbishop that we can’t do anything unless we first create a peaceful environment. His call on Ghanaians to cherish peace to the extent that they should be ready to lay down their lives for it is good in the saying but difficult in the doing. So also is his insistence that Ghanaians be advocates of peace as the surest path to development.

That is why his claim, “believe it or not, there several people who do not know peace,” is apt. He is credited with describing Akufo-Addo’s clarion call of “All die be die” as a mark of cowardice because Jesus did not say that but rather said “take up your cross and follow me.”

Very good perspective, Archbishop. Say it again, and make it ring loud in Akufo-Addo’s ears. He was in Israel a month or two ago to wail before the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem as part of his efforts to seek the face of God and to curry favour from him. Peace cannot be built with the Mosaic temperament of vengeance and an “all die being dying.”

How can a heart that is heavily laden with a battle cry for mayhem, death, and maiming be admired by a God who enjoins his creation to be at peace with each other and themselves? Politics shouldn’t become the avenue for destruction of life and property. That’s the gist of the Archbishop’s message. I wish and pray that this message will sink and that those using the pulpit will lead the peace-building crusade. After all, they are quick to preach on peace. Peace-making shouldn’t be limited to the political scene only. It has a place in the church too. Unfortunately, many Men-of-God who are expected to champion the cause highlighted by the Archbishop have chosen to do otherwise, which gives cause for serious concern. Let’s be bold to question them. Some have committed heinous crimes such as rape, murder, theft; and many others have snatched wives from husbands and lured unsuspecting female members of their congregation into adultery and fornication. We have some who give false witness to score cheap moral points while others have fallen by the wayside, caught in the very vices that their sermons of virtue condemn.

Those in the Catholic Church who have sworn to remain celibate haven’t been able to live by their vow and end up either corrupting the women they have an eye to in their congregation or do lewd acts of sodomizing young boys. They encourage immorality under the cover of darkness while glibly condemning it in the open. Consequently they can’t be absolved from the spate of indiscipline and immorality that has become our national canker.

We won’t even mention the theft of church funds and outright physical assaults on members or fellow priests challenging their authority. The split that has occurred in many churches over the years has often been caused by the failure of the Men-of-God to do as they preach. And they shamelessly fend off criticism by saying emphatically: “Do what I say, not what I do.” They delight in pointing the way, not walking it to serve as examples to be emulated. Some of them have muddied the spiritual waters by indulging in occultism or turning to idolatry to boost their calling. The incident in which Kwaku Bonsam boldly stepped into a chapel in the Brong-Ahafo Region last year to exhume the “magnet” that he had given to the church leader to enlarge his congregation is a case in point. There are many instances of such syncretic spiritual activities. Some Men-of-God are more interested in serving two masters at the same time and end up creating a bad name for Christendom.

All manner of such Men-of-God have mushroomed; day-in-day-out, new churches emerge to dot the Ghanaian landscape, mostly placarding “prosperity” as the clarion call—and they attract followers. None is interested in carrying the cross as a prerequisite to winning any crown. They want the prize but don’t want to run any race as Timothy and the other Apostles did.

Sadly, cases have erupted in which the Men-of-God have played no mean a role in creating tension. The recent confrontation between the Methodist Church and Assemblies of God branch over a piece of land during which the former demolished structures erected by the latter paints a bad picture of the Church as a socio-cultural and spiritual institution. Peace-building can’t start from there. Some Men-of-God (especially those belonging to the so-called charismatic or spiritual churches) have been exposed as giving spiritual backing to armed robbers as they offer their services to fortify the armed robbers and embolden them to carry out their anti-social activities.

Many church leaders have butted heads with traditional rulers, causing social strife. We won’t forget the perennial fracas between the Ga State and churches operating on Ga lands every year that the Ga state bans noise-making in preparation for the annual Homowo celebrations. There have been confrontations between the Ga traditionalists and churches flouting such a ban in exercise of their spiritual rights.

The tension that characterizes the relationship between the churches and followers of traditional African religion all over the country is not conducive to peace-building. While the Christians are encouraged by their leaders to defy the norms that are un-Christian to them, the traditionalists also claim ownership of the space in which these Christians operate and seek to uproot them therefrom. The result is the pockets of tension that we have all over the country.

Carried to a higher notch, the problem worsens when the church leaders politicize their activities, taking sides and creating the impression that with their spiritual backing, one group of politicians is more creditable than the other. No one needs any divination to see a clear demonstration of this political bias in our contemporary political times. Peace cannot be built when the supposed Apostles of Peace take sides.

In other countries, the danger inherent in Church-State conflict is recognized and efforts made to separate the Church (matters of religion and faith) from the State (anything else but religion and faith). Not in our case in Ghana. We have embraced both and added them to other factors constituting the quagmire into which we have sunk all these years.

When these church leaders take sides this way, they make it difficult for oneness to be achieved. They become the wedge that divides the people and deepens their woes. It is within this context that I implore the clergy to endeavour to live above reproach and to make their words their own command—to practice what they preach first so that when they advocate courses of action as suggested by the Archbishop, they will be heeded without question. If their inclinations and hidden intentions say otherwise, nobody will be encouraged to do as they say.

They must remove the beam from their own eyes before attempting to take away the speck that is in others’ eyes. Unfortunately, most of them are quick to overlook the beam in their eyes and always expend energy, forcing to remove the tiny speck in others’ eyes. Peace-building is a give-and-take manouevre.

We will, however, agree with the Archbishop: “For me, this is my only country; I will not go anywhere; I was born here, they buried my navel here; I have enjoyed here ;and I want to die and be buried here.”

True. Ghana is the only country we have, and we must work together to develop it in the peaceful environment that we must create and sustain so it can endure long after we have paid our dues to Nature.

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.