At the Resurrection Methodist Church in the Ghanaian capital of Accra, some of the elders and many congregants are reported to be incensed over the alleged rape of a young woman by a prominent priest. The young woman had, reportedly, been sent to deliver a package to the accused, only to be luridly and unexpectedly fondled and brutally raped. The cleric, whose name has been given as Rt.-Rev. Quao Agyiri, has yet to clarify the allegation, let alone assist the Accra police with possible investigation of the alleged incident (See “Sex Scandal Hits Methodist Church; Bishop Fingered” MyJoyOnline.com 1/20/10).
What appears to be complicating matters right now, is the fact that the accused is reported to have flown into the United States as rumors about his alleged crime began to attract wide public attention. At the time of this writing (1/20/10), no official information had been given regarding either the veracity of the accusation or whether the presiding prelate of the church and/or other highly placed members of the church had known about the rape allegation prior to Rev. Quao Agyiri's apparently rushed departure for the United States on an unspecified mission. And, also, if any of the church authorities had been in the know about the aforesaid allegation, what any of them would have said or done about it before the alleged clerical rapist was able to ship out of town, as it were.
In any case, what is quite significant to observe here is that incidents of Ghanaian clergymen, in particular, allegedly taking undue advantage of female members of their congregations run riot and rampant and are, as it is naturally to be expected, trans-denominational. Such incidents, needless to say, are also known to have transpired for several generations now.
Traditionally, the reaction of church leadership has been one of quickly and cleverly cordoning off the alleged assailant, with the primary purpose of protecting the credibility of the clergy and the sanctity of the church as a cardinal societal establishment at large. In the past also, the often powerful and very influential church leadership has fairly readily managed to stave off the intervention of law-enforcement agents, primarily the tepidly tempered police, on the dubious pretext of resolving this first-class felony as a domestic incident. It is thus, primarily, in the foregoing context that the indelibly traumatizing incidence of rape involving highly positioned members of the church has tended to be, literally, accorded short-shrift treatment where the victim's right to justice is concerned.
And to be certain, Elder Jacob Osei-Yeboah, of the Resurrection Methodist Church in Accra, the same congregation against one of whose members Rev. Quao Agyiri allegedly committed the crime of rape, was decrying this hypocritical approach to Christian ethics when he made the following caustic observation: “I couldn't fathom or understand why [Rt.-Rev. Quao Agyiri] should [have been allowed to seek refuge] in America after committing [such a heinous crime]. If it had been a carpenter or a mason[,] the person would [definitely] have been put [in] jail [no ifs and buts].”
Elder Jacob Osei-Yeboah is also dead-on accurate in stressing the indisputable fact that in any civilized and morally conscious society, “nobody has the power to prevent the law from taking its course.” Still, Elder Osei-Yeboah is even apt to serving the alleged victim and her family far better by advising them to promptly lodge a complaint with local law-enforcement authorities, rather than tardily opining that “the father of the victim will come out at the appropriate time to make his opinion known.”
Well, as I noted above, redress is a question of swift and measured execution of condign comeuppance, not the mere and plaintive expression of either anger or pain/bitterness. For it goes without saying that punishment and justice are about deterrence and salutary protection of the most vulnerable members of society at large.
We must also highlight the fact that this alleged case of the church trying to vigorously protect one of its errant big-wigs is not, by any stretch of the imagination, unique to either the Resurrection Methodist Church in Accra, or even the Ghana Methodist Church as a cardinal national institution. Almost every religious establishment has had to deal with such heinous anti-woman crime; for the horrific crime of rape is clearly one of far-reaching degradation of female humanity and worth.
It is also rather ironically bizarre that Rt.-Rev. Quao Agyiri should attempt to seek refuge here in the United States. Rather ironic because in recent years, the leadership of the mainstream American church, particularly the Roman Catholic Church, has come under mordant criticism for shielding wayward priests, especially pedophiles. And the church has had to fork up tens of millions of dollars in order to more cost-effectively settle cases of glaring evidence of the commission of such heinous crimes well in advance of image-crippling and coffer-bursting lawsuits.
And so if he is really guilty as is being alleged, then Rt.-Rev. Quao Agyiri had better prepare his most guilt-proof defense. For really, America is no safe haven for rapists!
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is a Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danquah Institute (DI), the pro-democracy think tank, and the author of 21 books, including “Selected Political Writings” (Atumpan Publications/Lulu.com, 2008). E-mail: [email protected]