Religious Pot: Living the Good Shepherd Sunday

Christianity is a religion that urges its adherents to daily lead a Christ-like life and it has festivals and other occasions for reflection to make amends where individual adherents have fallen short  in the light of what the Bible enjoins Christians to do.

One of such occasions is Good Shepherd Sunday, which is the Sunday that follows Easter Sunday. This celebrates Jesus as the Shepherd just as He Himself has said, “I am the Good Shepherd.” 

I think even those who have not been around the Church may remember seeing pictures of Jesus holding a lamb in His arms or maybe across His shoulders. This is an image of someone who is ready to make sacrifices for the good of His sheep and this is an image of faithful life.

We should strive to attain the faithful life as the Gospel of Christ encourages us to “love one another”. Love is what would make us avoid iniquity and any act that would hurt our neighbours and others for we would thus become each other’s keeper.

The occasion of the Good Shepherd Sunday is also a good opportunity to take stock of all the aspects of human life at the family, community,local, national and global levels. 

At this juncture, we call upon the Ghana government to ensure greater socio-economic justice. We need an economy with remarkable strength and creativity, with growth and equitable distribution of our resources and national wealth. As people of faith, we believe we are one family, not competing classes. We are sisters and brothers, not socio-economic units or statistics. We must come together around the values of our faith to shape socio-economic policies that protect human life, promote strong families, expand a stable middle class, create decent jobs, and reduce the level of poverty and need in our society. We need to strengthen our sense of community and our pursuit of the common good.

  Dysfunctional economy?: 
Several areas of the Ghanaian economic life demand special attention. Unemployment is the most basic. Despite the large number of perceived new jobs in Ghana, approximately more than a million people seeking work in this country are unable to find it, and many more are so discouraged they have stopped looking. Unemployment is a tragedy no matter whom it strikes, but the tragedy is compounded by the unequal and unfair way the national cake is distributed in our society. 

It is a sombre reality that poverty remains, and that for many of our people, life seems to have become more difficult.Politicians have promised more than they have delivered and some of them live in luxury while the masses are in poverty. There is widespread corruption and fraud in our public sector.

Poverty is not merely the lack of adequate financial resources. It entails a more profound kind of deprivation, a denial of full participation in the economic, social, and political life of society and an inability to influence decisions that affect one’s life. It means being powerless in a way that assaults not only one’s pocketbook but also one’s fundamental human dignity. 

Therefore, we should seek solutions that enable the poor to help themselves through such means as employment. 

  Prison system
There is the need to reduce the prison population and to help bring about change in the prison system: In recent times, some churches and civic leaders are calling for changes in the current prison system and a reduction in the prison population.  The reasons include the fact the cost is exorbitant to the taxpayers, communities, victims and the offenders themselves and their families. Resources are taken away from basic human needs such as food, housing, education and medical care for the physically and mentally ill to the prisons.

There is a much higher percentage of prisoners that are poor, uneducated, lacking work skills and other basic human needs. Our prison system constitutes a form of apartheid – an institutionalised apartheid, that is, economic and social crisis that particularly imposes itself as cultural crisis.

Imprisonment does not make our streets safer.  Some who leave prison have no means of supporting themselves and want to return to prison where they have at least some food and a roof over their heads at night. 

Many people need to be freed from their addictions in order to be able to live a safe and humane life. Programmes are lacking to address their addictions. We need more treatment instead of prisons.Prepare people well for re-entry back to their communities after their time of incarceration has ended. 

   Alternatives to prison
We urge the government to provide  good education, healthcare for those lacking it, to address addictions and provide job training for those who are ready for it.  Let our government and parliamentarians know that we cannot balance our country’s budgets on the backs of the poor and disenfranchised, the powerless, the aging and the most vulnerable people in our society.

Education and other essential human services cannot function successfully without adequate funding. 

May God give us a mind for words that sing and a tongue for songs that speak and constantly prompt us that every religious occasion calls for the need to improve conditions in society and to love one another.

The writer is the Archbishop of the Orthodox Anglican Church of Ghana and, Bishop of the 

Diocese of Saints Peter and Paul, Sekondi

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