11.03.2020 Feature Article

All ‘Civilized’societies Have National Cathedrals, Mosques, Or Synagogues!

All ‘Civilized’societies Have National Cathedrals, Mosques, Or Synagogues!
LISTEN MAR 11, 2020

When we make reference to civilized societies in this present conversation, all we are talking about here are the economically rich nations such as Germany, UK, Italy, United States, Canada, Denmark, Belgium, France, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Israel, and the like. All these preceding countries have something in common: they pretty much have prominent or national cathedrals. In fact, one of the most elegant cathedrals in the world is located in St. Petersburg, Russia.

More so, countries like Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Romania, Czech Republic, or Egypt and Turkey all have landmark or national cathedrals of some sort. Egypt and Turkey, which are predominantly Muslim states, have imposing cathedrals, maybe they are museums now but they're still there today. For example, Egypt has the Cathedral of the Nativity, whereas in Istanbul, Turkey, they have the Cathedral/Church of the Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia).

It bears mentioning that in the highly conservative religious societies like Saudi Arabia that happens to be the birthplace of the Holy Prophet and the founder of Islam, it is not surprising it has national 'cathedral' or monument in the form of the Great Mosqueof Mecca (also called The Sacred Mosque). Equally worthy to know is that the largely Shiite nation of Iran's national Imam Reza shrine/mosque is considered to be the largest in the world. We are recounting all these various forms of notable religious edifices across the globe in an attempt to hammer home to the skeptics or the opponentsof the proposed national cathedral in Ghana that major civilizations—past and present—have included national 'cathedrals' as an intrinsic part their history.

But just pay close attention to many Ghanaians making a case about some touchy public issues, such as the national cathedral, and right there one begins to see the incoherence or the flawed premise on which the argument is constructed. In fact, some of us still share the view that millions of us as Ghanaians speak from different sides of our mouths in that the hypocrisies and the contradictions inherent in our cultural psyche have reached an insanity level.

Put in different context, nowhere in human life has anyone eaten his/her bread and have it right back. Simply, it does not make much sense for an individual to profess a deep belief in a particular religion or (say) Christianity and turns around to oppose or demonize an interfaith national cathedral complex. Certainly, being an avowed Christian and against national cathedral for whatever reasons are two values/positions that are antithetical to each other.

As indicated in many of my previous write-ups, majority of Ghanaians expect their government to bring 'manna from heaven' to meet their insatiable socio-economic appetites. Yet most Ghanaians will always find some incoherent as well as some unrealistic excuses to oppose almost everything the government proposes. Has anyone ever heard about a serious country or progressive-minded people who trivialize tuition-free senior high school on convoluted reasoning that other societal issues must take precedence over the provision of free education for our future leaders? Many of our thought processes toward the country's progress are upside down.

For those Ghanaians who are leading the charge of no national cathedral; no national cathedral; it is not necessarily that they worry so much about the prudent use of the nation's meagre resources because many of the naysayers have been given the chance before to demonstrate their sound management skills of the nation's economy but could not live up to the challenges of their respective high offices. At this juncture, former President Mahama and his NDC readily come to mind.

Like many Ghanaians, Mr. Mahama's camp vehemently opposed any attempt on the part of Akufo-Addo administration to allow US military base in Ghana on the vague excuse of national sovereignty, but the ex-president-turned-NDC presidential candidate didn't think about the country's 'sovereignty' when he gathered some foreign officials living in Ghana to talk negatively about his country's government. In so many ways, ex-President Mahama's public utterances and behaviours in the public policy arena are symptomatic of a deep-seated contradictory attitude of most Ghanaians. None of us needs complicated or empirical studies to determine that one in two Ghanaians claim some form of Christian faith, yet a sizable number, including former President Mahama, are the very ones who cynically oppose the building of national cathedral.

Regarding the argument that Ghana has more important national issues so we can't afford to 'misuse' our scarce resources on 'less important' policies like Free SHS (they used the same flawed reasoning here too), or to some extent, we can't deplete the state's kitty to build national cathedral (which is mostly privately funded), sounds like a cliché and worn-out contention many of us have heard over and over as to pass as credible apologia. The point is a nation like ours that claims to have about seventy per cent and over Christians should not have problem or turn their backs against national cathedral that is even modelled on interdenominational concept.

The First Amendment of the US Constitution explicitly forbids the government to establish national religion or prevents US citizens from pursuing any religious beliefs of their choice, yet there is national cathedral in USA. Yes, United States is not Ghana but without shred of doubt, the Ghanaian society today is more 'Americanized' or heavily influenced by the Western culture.

One other significant conclusion to the larger debate as to whether or not to construct national cathedral is: if contemporary Ghana is predominantly Muslim enclaves such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, or Iran, we may not be engaging in this conversation in that the question will definitely be 'when' and not 'if' we're going to have central or national mosque. It is why Iran, for instance, has over forty thousand mosques, many of them are constructed by the state; and this does not mean there are no other minority religious sects in that country. Similar to every modern, complex society, the Iranian people may have their set of political issues but they don't have problems because the country has national mosques.

Listening to some (confused Christians) Ghanaians fussing about building a national cathedral, it makes some of us cringe as Christians, wondering if putting up interfaith cathedral will put Ghana into perpetual anarchy. If the main logic is the country doesn't have money to build one; then when is it going to have money? At any rate, without any whisper of condescension, one genuine admiration many of us always have about Muslim faith is that its followers are not pretentious in their belief system.

Surely, I am a proud lifelong Christian, but I can honestly say almost all Muslim brothers and sisters don't go worship in the mosques because they expect the chief imam to pray for them to get enough money to travel abroad or have good husband or wife. Rather, Muslims—unlike many of our Christians folks—tend to be relatively disciplined and well-grounded in the Islam faith. Muslims are not confused or doubtful about what they are after, even if it is about constructing central or 'national' mosque. Many Ghanaian Christians tend to be wishy-washy in their religious beliefs; and to a larger extent, it explains why they can't even unite around the construction of 'harmless' national cathedral in the so-called majority Christian nation!

Bernard Asubonteng is US-based writer and a political science lecturer

By Bernard Asubonteng

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