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17.03.2009 Religion

Prayer Camps, Cripples And Trivials

By The Statesman

Abu Mohammed, the former NDC Vice Chairman for the then Abuakwa constituency, and since February 20, a government appointee at the East Akyem Municipal Assembly has attracted the kind of notoriety which may end up crippling his liberty.

You certainly don't want to be in his crutches. He"s caught between protecting his party's integrity and protecting himself from prosecution.

On the political platform he was happy to call the MP for Abuakwa South a liar and insisted he was 'crippled' and made impotent as a result of an alleged December 8, 1996 beating he received "from Akufo-Addo's thugs'.

On his insurance claim, however, he has official records (from police and doctors) to show that his bad leg was as a result of a road accident in 2005.

Whether the insurance firm is yet to pay him or has already paid him, a criminal case can be made against the policyholder (or claimant) for making a fraudulent claim. From Abu's own mouth, he was 'crippled' by a 1996 incident and not a 2005 accident.

Using his own public utterances since Fifi Kwettey, nominee for Deputy Finance Minister and NDC Propaganda Secretary was questioned at the parliamentary vetting committee over the campaign propaganda that Abu lost the use of his limbs as a result of Akufo-Addo's violence; Abu is now criminally liable for making a false insurance claim.

So the choice is straightforward, if not simple: Abu should choose between the political offence of saying his party lied to defame the 2008 NPP Presidential Candidate or the criminal offence of a fraudulent insurance claim. The latter carries the threat of some five years prison sentence.

 
***Ghana Int. Prayer Camp
A front page story in the Friday, Nov 30, 2007 edition of the Public Agenda newspaper read as follows: the paper 'has gathered that opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) has established a prayer camp at the Osu Kuku Hill campaign office of Professor John Evans Atta Mills, where some prayer warriors converge to pray for the party's victory.

The pastors and prayer warriors who meet every Friday not only pray for NDC victory in 2008, they spend a lot of time praying against some government policies in a bid to reclaim power.

'This reporter last Friday went to a nearby house to monitor the prayer session and heard the NDC's prayer warriors praying and shouting, 'fire, fire, fire burn them, fire destroy them, fire confuse them, amid Amen, Amen, Amen.'

The journalists, apparently, had been invited, as a PR stunt, to tell voters how godly the NDC campaign was. What the reporters did not say, however, was which group were the prayer warriors, in their holy request, referring to when they screamed: 'Fire! Fire! Fire burn them! Fire destroy them! Fire confuse them!'

It was reported last week that President Mills on Thursday reacted to criticisms that he has turned the Castle, the seat of government into a 'prayer camp,' saying, 'I have no apologies and regrets to offer.' I thought this was rather clever - a conscious attempt to befriend the 14-million strong Christian community.

Yes, there are occasional comments in the mass media about T B Joshua's visits to the Castle and other prayer sessions there. But, it is difficult to term these comments as criticisms. Since those who criticise are in the opposition then to criticise a Christian venture is to say the opposition is unchristian.

Prof Mills is cleverly positioning himself on the side of the Christian community and doing what one Nazi leader summed up as creating a common enemy when there's none, exaggerating the threat of that enemy in days of actual difficulties and causing a diversion by mobilising the people 'under siege' to help you fight that enemy on the battlefield of escapism.

He has calculated that the vast Christian community would find his 'clean' image attractive. But, even ignoring the violent chants of 'Fire burn them! Fire destroy them! Fire confuse them!' and all that arsonine language, how pure is this Christianity claim? No observer would deny that the NDC made spiritualism (Pastors, Mallams, Antoa Nyama, and other 'Ways & Means') a vital part of their campaign structure.

There was a team in charge of Christian prayers, Juju consultations, Moslem prayers, etc. Akufo-Addo may not have made a fetish of his prayer warriors. But, I can say for sure that he actively discouraged any attempts to consult jujus, with the kind of dismissive-ness which many at the time found frustrating:  'My Christian spirit is against it.' The irony of life!

Is Prof Mills saying that he was not aware of the 'dark' spirits that were consulted? The Mallams from Mali who reportedly moved to Accra for the campaign?  And, he sees no conflict with his holier-than-thou posture? I don't doubt the sincerity of his Christian conviction. What I, however, find worrying is the apparent fact that he sees no inherent conflict between the two forces.

The Chief Justice on January 7 swore in a political leader and not a spiritual leader. He should not attempt to hide administrative shortcomings behind the altar of religiosity. And, Prof Mills' apparent determination to place God first in the affairs of his administration would not be manifested through an unrealistic wish that the whole of Ghana would be turned into a prayer camp.

 He should begin by making his lieutenants in his administration act in ways a reasonable Christian or Moslem, at least, may consider godly.  

Though our founding fathers were religious, it was not for nothing that Ghana was made a secular state with the freedom of worship. Christianity (or religion) certainly has a major role to play in our

Just as the thoughts and ideas of the likes of Socrates, Aristophanes, Hume, Voltaire, Copernicus and Darwin and other religious schismatics and nonbelievers have contributed to the kind of West-inspired civilisation we are striving to emulate.

Prof Mills should only be taken seriously on this matter if he is first able to get his followers to adhere to a vital Christian principle such as tolerance.

Two decades ago Andres Serrano put a plastic crucifix in a glass of urine, photographed it and called it art. This uretic gesture cost the US taxpayer over $15,000, when it was bought by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Neither the Pope nor any other Christian leader pronounced a Fatwa on Serrano's head. The NDC are now calling for Atta Akyea to be removed from the vetting committee because he asks probing questions which make their nominees uncomfortable.

There is good measure in pushing for our economic development to be sustained by a value system. Social scientists make a compelling argument that religious habits are part of the complex mix that determines a country's economic health.

Max Weber made that argument for capitalism some time back. He drew a link between the Protestant work ethic and the spirit of capitalism. Ghana can find a workable balance between the contribution of religious values and the relationship of freedom to economic development.

In recent times, researchers have found a stronger link between religion and development. In spite of the secularisation thesis that the more a country develops the more secular it gets - supported by the fact that churches are being turned into warehouses in the West and the other way round in Ghana.

 The United States is a very religious nation, yet its development has benefited from that culture. It is also argued that over the last 30 years, many East Asian countries, including Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea, have experienced both rapid economic growth and the spread of Christianity.

Recently in the Journal of Monetary Economics, researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Sassari in Rome, published a paper that did not compare countries but looked at the relationship between religious beliefs and the attitudes shown to foster economic growth.

'On average,' they wrote, 'religious beliefs are associated with good economic attitudes, where good is defined as conducive to higher per capita income.'

Authors Robert Barro and Rachel McCleary in 'Religion and Economic Growth', found evidence, after analysing 59 countries, that the fear of hell is more potent for economic growth than the prospect of heaven.

Their statistical analysis allows them to argue that these estimates reflect causal influences from religion to economic growth and not the reverse.

Barro and McCleary suggest that higher rates of religious beliefs stimulate growth because they help to sustain aspects of individual behaviour that enhance productivity.

However, they believe that higher church attendance depresses growth because it signifies a greater use of resources by the religion sector. However, that suppression of growth is tempered by the extent to which church attendance leads to greater religious beliefs, which in turn encourages economic growth.

The fundamental question that pops to mind is: How has Ghanaians' religious nature impacted on the country's development? And, how different would a Mills presidency and its claimed fetish about prayer camps help us quickly decamp from poverty to prosperity?

It is important, however, that we ground our development agenda in the freedom in reason and individualism, as well. We must, as a people, boldly defend and uphold the individual's right to his own life, his own liberty, and the pursuit of his own happiness.

My only question to President Mills is this: if we turn the whole of Ghana into a prayer camp, who shall feed us? Our donor partners?

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