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No pilgrimage by pastors will save the government

Mon, 18 Mar 2013 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Folks, it is time to take on the government for what I consider to be the worst “misplaced priority” that it has come out with less than 100 days in office. And I will be very blunt and brazen about it.

When the news broke out that the government was making feverish preparations to send 200 Ghanaian pastors from various denominations (even including the non-denominational sections) on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in Israel at the cost of 2 million Dollars, I didn’t immediately respond. I decided to monitor the situation to know more and see things for myself.

Comments from pastors who blew the lid on this sponsorship, especially what came from the Catholic Church, gave good hints on what the pilgrimage entailed. Then, attempts by spokespeople for the government seeking to either clarify matters of fend off criticism added more to those hints.

I have now seen and heard enough to confirm that indeed, the government did make moves to sponsor pastors on such a pilgrimage. This confirmation warrants my jumping in at this time with one purpose in mind: to condemn the government over this issue.

Let me first take issues with the latest stance of the government on the issue, as reported by the news media. I take this version from MyJoyOnline:

“The government has denied claims it is spending over two million dollars on pastors making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem…. In a statement signed by the Youth and Sports Minister Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, government described the reports as “frivolous” “untrue” “sensational” and calculated at creating public disaffection towards the government.

“Whilst admitting that government is coordinating the process to have pastors flown to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage, he said the amount being quoted is far in excess of what has been allocated to the project.

“The total cost of the sponsorship package for the 200 pilgrims which includes airfare, hotels and feeding is approximately 600,000 dollars, and not 2million US dollars as sensationally claimed by the false reports. It is absolutely untrue that each pilgrim will be given $10,000 as per diem,” the statement said.” (Source: MyJoyOnline, March 17, 2013).

This is the most senseless venture ever to have involved the Ghanaian government in recent times. I base my stance on a number of poignant questions:

What business does the government think the pastors can use this pilgrimage to do for it or the country and its millions of citizens living below the poverty line, not because God has chosen them for a special vengeance but because of the incompetence of its leaders?

Does the government think that prayers will give it the answers to solve Ghana’s short-term and long-term problems? That the current disruption in the supply of water and electricity, for instance, will be tackled with prayers on a pilgrimage to Israel?

That the Israelis don’t take practical, scientific, and pragmatic measures themselves but just wail to God (of course, Jerusalem has the Wailing Wall) and PRONTO, God drops solutions down from the firmament for their existential problems to vanish into thin air?

Simply put, whoever initiated this process has some ulterior motives. Again, simply put, the government itself is sick to buy into this initiative!! Here is why I say so.

It is irritating and insulting for Afriyie Ankrah to claim that the total cost is 600,000 Dollars and not the 2 million Dollars quoted by the Daily Guide newspaper, which first revealed the deal. Is 600,000 Dollars a small amount of public funds to be so wasted?

The mere fact that the government hasn’t denied its sponsorship of this pilgrimage is enough grounds for condemning it as taking on a task that is not within its purview. Is the government saying that it doesn’t already have enormous challenges and will be adding a pilgrimage to its plate? Madness at its highest level.

I can’t tell whether whoever mooted this pilgrimage idea wishes the government well or not; but I can confidently say that it is an initiative that has backfired and earned government much scorn. It is a clear demonstration of heartlessness at this time when the country is confronted with very serious problems that no one in authority seems to know how to solve to improve living conditions.

I can’t bring myself to imagine that the government would want to spend so much money on a pilgrimage that won’t yield any practical dividend to the economy or bring in anything worthwhile with which to improve living conditions.

Even Geoffrey Chaucer’s pilgrims (as recorded in his The Canterbury Tales) can do better. The mere hot air that those pastors will blow and call “prayers” won’t solve anybody’s existential problem. And who says that it is only in Jerusalem that prayers offered to God will enter his ears or touch his heart?

More importantly, what has a pilgrimage got to do with government business? Is that what our Constitution prescribes? What is bothering the government’s conscience for it to use a pilgrimage of pastors to salve?

The government doesn’t need prayers; it needs people with the right acumen and habits of mind to tackle the problems confronting the country. That is why it is senseless for it to be part of this pilgrimage movement.

If anything at all, it is those in government whose hearts are dark that must seek redemption and change their ways of doing things so their conscience doesn’t continue to prick them.

I don’t want to believe that the government sees this pilgrimage movement as its response to the prayer-and-fasting sessions that I hear the Akufo-Addo camp has resorted to ever since the Electoral Commissioner announced Akufo-Addo’s defeat at Election 2012.

I know it for a fact—and had a clear confirmation of this recourse to the transcendental by the NPP followers’ street candlelight prayer session in Kumasi last week—that Akufo-Addo is seriously seeking the face of God so that the Supreme Court will overturn the outcome of Election 2012 to favour him. The howling that dominates such prayer sessions is deafening, if not frightening.

So, could it be that someone in government must have conceived the plan to send pastors on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem (presumably, the throne of God) to offer prayers to counteract what the Akufo-Addo camp is “beseeching” God for? If that is the case, then, somebody must really be suffering silently.

But who says that God can be forced to do any mortal being’s bidding? For all we may care to know, God isn’t even listening to anybody wasting his or her time fasting and squealing in strange tongues over Election 2012.

Or are the pastors being sponsored to untangle the vain prophecy by Owusu Bempah that President Mahama would die this year if…..? What a waste of resources that will be!

On a more serious note, I want to castigate the government, especially those behind this pilgrimage movement seeking to misuse public funds. I have said it several times that God is not in the habit of coming down from the heavens to help human beings solve their existential problems.

Having already endowed us with the faculty (reasoning power), God expects us to think right and use that faculty to solve our problems. If we fail to do so and turn round to waste public funds on ceremonies of the sort that this pilgrimage entails, God will punish us all the more.

I don’t want to think that is what the government is looking for. If it has capable brains and hands, it shouldn’t be difficult for it to know how to solve the problems that continue to push the citizens far into narrow circumstances.

I am highly disappointed that in this 21st century—and with all the resources available to us—the government will buy into this hollow idea of sending pastors on a pilgrimage. Is that part of its responsibility at all? Does the government not know where the buck stops?

Even with all the churches mushrooming everywhere in the country every day, no one can persuade me that there is a corresponding positive impact of the church on the society to justify any preferential treatment being given pastors of the sort that are being contacted or assembled for this pilgrimage.

Immorality is on the ascendancy and the crime wave has peaked. Even within the church circles, a lot of rot exists. If these pastors can pray for miracles to happen, why aren’t they able to clean their own stables?

Those hiding behind the Bible to foment trouble are all over the place; and those buying into their subterfuge and duplicity are everywhere, including the corridors of power.

Probably, someone in government is looking for the quickest means to swindle us. I have in mind the judgement debt payments and will not be far from right to infer from this pilgrimage movement that an intricate network of white collar thieves has begun devising new sophisticated ways to fleece the national coffers.

I expect President Mahama to act decisively and expeditiously to end this madness going on. If he has already given his blessing to it, he should be ready for the negative fallouts. In truth, this attempt to use the pastors for political leverage has already backfired and we can tell from the utterances of those who spurned the government’s invitation to participate in the pilgrimage that the government has lost face.

No amount of empty public relations stunts or belated official statements can change people’s minds and attitudes to the government on this score. What more does the government need to know before it realizes that sending pastors on a pilgrimage is the least important issue of interest to Ghanaians—if it is even worth anybody’s bother at all?

If prayers alone can solve pressing problems facing countries, I don’t think that Israel will still need the support of the United States and its allies to survive. Regarded as the “Chosen People” (according to Biblical accounts), all the Israelis would need to do is to descend into marathon prayer sessions and fold their arms for their Yahweh (their God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) to solve their existential problems for them. But the Israelis—whose forefathers we are told God directly dealt with—use their God-given faculty to tackle their problems.

Even if they look up to God for spiritual support, they don’t behave the way we do in our part of the world. That is why Israel is one of the best agricultural countries in the world despite being in an arid region; and that is why despite its small size and seeming vulnerability (being surrounded by enemies), it still stands tall among nations.

The Israeli government is even capable of helping countries like Ghana learn how to tap into their own resources! Isn’t it shameful that although our country has more resources than Israel, it can’t lift itself up from the doldrums? Why is it so?

It is so clearly because our leaders are useless. They aren’t worth putting in control of the country’s affairs; but they manage to be in office, anyway. Then, instead of using their faculty to address problems, they look for the quickest means to steal what is meant for solving the country’s problems and then turn round to go panhandling in the international community, worsening those problems and creating new ones to add to them.

What the government’s sponsorship of this pilgrimage entails is sickening. I don’t think that Ghanaians deserve this kind of misplaced priority at this time. Somebody is not thinking right. That’s the long and short of it. I hope I have proved that I have been brazen!

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.