Trouble is brewing at Akyem Asene near Oda in the Eastern Region between members of the Jehovah Witness Movement (JWM) and the traditional authorities of the town following the refusal of the movement to pay levies or partake in communal labour.
According to the JWM, they are prohibited from obeying laws made by man as their doctrine allows them to obey only Biblical instructions from God.
Consequently, they have resolved not to participate in communal labour, wear mourning clothes, attend funerals or pay special development levies collected during funerals since these are man-made laws.
They quoted Genesis 25: 8-9 "Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people. And his sons lsaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre", to buttress their point.
In retaliation, the traditional authorities, the assembly members and other opinion leaders in the town have banned them from burying their dead in the community's cemetery if they do not respect the laws of the land.
The standoff follows an announcement made at a funeral at Asene on Sunday, March 1, this year, during which the leadership of JWM said henceforth, their entire 245 members would not attend any funeral rites observed in the town, neither would they pay the development levy of Gp 10 per citizen of the town because they were against their traditional belief.
The announcement generated a lot of controversy at the town's durbar grounds so the traditional rulers of the town led by the Gyaasehene, Nana Amoa Daadom who is the regent, advised the membership of the movement to go and reflect on the impact of their action and meet the leadership of the town last Sunday (Akwasidae) for a final decision to be taken on the matter in the interest of the development of the town.
When the JWM members met the traditional rulers, the assembly members and other opinion leaders of the town numbering about 50 last Sunday, the leaders of the movement, namely, Elders Edward Kwabena Acquah, Kwadwo Asante, Yaw Frimpong and George Asomaning told them in plain language that they still stood by their decision since their laws were man-made.
Among the traditional rulers who attended the meeting were Nana Amoa Daadom, the Gyaasehene, Ohenese Apau, the Apusuapanin of the Royal Agona family, the Queen , Nana Afia Kissiwaa, all the family heads of Asene and all the assembly members in the town.
Nana Daadom stated that the failure of the JWM members to pay their development levy on March 1, made the community to lose more than GH¢200 revenue.
But for the timely intervention of the traditional authorities, the irate youth of the town would have burnt the Kingdom Hall (church building, of the JWS), claiming that they must be expelled from the town since they could not live there without participating in any social activities geared towards the progress of the community.
When the Daily Graphic contacted the four JWS elders Messrs Acquah, Asante, Frimpong and Asomaning for their version of the matter, they confirmed taking the decision because they would not do anything against the teachings of their religion.
They, however, denied that they had not been participating in communal labour neither had they been going to farm on Wednesdays, which were taboo days.
Asked why they sought medical attention and enrol their children in public schools which were jointly constructed by the communities and the government, they claimed that those amenities were financed with national taxes to which they contributed.
The four elders also confirmed that they had not been participating in general and district assembly elections because they did not make nor unmake national, district assembly or community leaders.
They added that their mem¬bers were forbidden to be recruit¬ed into the armed forces or seek appointments as magistrates and judges as that was against their doctrine.