By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Folks, once again, we are being given to know how the Church and State are positioning themselves to influence the national psyche and approach to governance. In this 21st century, some in authority think that solutions to our existential problems can be sought as manna to drop from who-knows-where?
If you doubt it, read the news report:
A “National Week of Fasting, Prayer and Thanksgiving” begins this year. It will be organized by the Christian community, in collaboration with the government. A meeting to discuss the maiden programme took place at the Banquet Hall of the Flagstaff House on Monday when President Mahama hosted the senior clergy to a breakfast meeting.
The meeting elected the General Secretary of the Christian Council of Ghana, Rt. Rev. Dr. K. Opuni-Frimpong, to be the lead person in the organisation of the prayer week.
I like it that President Mahama did point out that as much as prayers are important in helping to shape society and the nation, that effort alone cannot achieve the development needed.
His call for hard work from the people and advice that all should take advantage of the opportunities that exist in the country are apt. But there is a lot more to worry about.
When leaders of a country turn to prayer and fasting as the instrument for shaping human behaviour, they confirm impressions that there is a lot more happening than meet the eyes. Prayer and fasting have serious religious (health and moral) benefits and cannot be discounted just because they are being factored into the strategies for governance.
But I am really concerned at this turn to “spirituality”, probably because some people are insistent on creating the impression that God is willing to come down from the heavens to help Ghana solve the existential problems reducing its citizens further down the poverty line.
And some may even question the scope of this prayer-and-fasting agenda, particularly as is being spearheaded by only one segment of what constitutes the religious community in this secular state called Ghana.
Where do adherents of the other known religious sects come in? Take the huge Muslim community and followers of traditional African religion(s) in the country, for instance, and you will see that the move being made is already skewed to privilege the Christian God; but we know that this Christian God isn’t any different the Muslim Allah or the traditional African Mawu (for the Ewes), Nyonmor (for the Gas), Nyame or its variants (for the Akans), or any other name that members of the over 100 ethnic groups in Ghana have for the Supreme Deity.
Are these members of the Christian community being empowered to pray and fast on behalf of these excluded segments of the society?
You see, right from scratch, the agenda is skewed and will create needless conflict. I am more than convinced that what is being initiated is only designed to serve the interests of those Christian leaders now snuggling so close to the Presidency as to begin making weird claims of superiority.
In all that is happening and will unfold fully later on, there is little indication that the real change that is needed to move Ghana forward will happen. Nation-building demands requisite policies and programmes and a well-focused government to implement them with the backing of a conscientious citizenry.
In Ghana’s case, these ingredients are missing, which is why nothing is happening to change the deplorable situation in the country despite the over-abundant natural and human resources.
I really find a lot wrong with this flight into spirituality and religiosity. We recognize the prevalence of all manner of churches and religious institutions in Ghana—and they proliferate daily too—without any corresponding drastic change in the mindset, lifestyle, and attitude of the adherents. In other words, the more these churches and-what-not spring up, the higher the negative activities impeding national development go.
In effect, then, what is the value of all these efforts steeped in religiosity? I hold a strong opinion that developing Ghana can be done without any recourse to such cosmetic measures as weekly prayer-and-fasting sessions.
It is up to the government to know why it is in office and the citizens to do what they have to do. No amount of howling at such stage-managed sessions will change anything. Indeed, the man-hours to be lost on such an occasion must itself be taken note of.
Of course, the problems that we all are complaining about (bribery and corruption, immorality, incompetence, greed, nepotism, hypocrisy, etc.) as impeding Ghana’s development exist in the Church too. Indeed, the Church is a microcosm of the macrocosm that the state is.
Where is the guarantee, then, that using the medium of the Church can help us in any way to solve the problems that are mostly self-created? Ghana could have been developed had its leaders been committed enough to enunciate and implement workable policies to galvanize the citizens to action.
What we have seen in this 4th Republic, particularly, is heart-rending. If the President and all high-ranking public officials are exempted from paying tax (and the church leaders don’t do so either), isn’t the line crooked already?
I may be going too far in criticizing this prayer-fasting-thanksgiving initiative; but knowing very well how ex-President Mills did things within the context of a national day of prayers (that his critics ridiculed), I am wary that President Mahama is allowing himself to be drawn into this kind of laughable game of wits. Tweaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa to our so-called leaders and “Duee” to Mother Ghana!!
I shall return…
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