I have now had the opportunity to read in full the text of the last communiqué issued by the Christian Council of Ghana under the signature of its General Secretary, the Rev. Dr Kwabena Opuni-Frimpong.
It is quite intriguing that a communication document from this august body is titled a communiqué, as if it emanated from secular powers, but not from the oldest association of religious denominations in Ghana.
Since it is an association of Protestant denominations, it would have been more appropriate calling it a pastoral letter to the Ghanaian faithful. It is the Catholics who use the word encyclical to describe public communication from the Pope and other church prelates to Catholics and other people of faith worldwide.
The foregoing is important, because it foreshadowed, in my opinion, the general tenor and thrust of the document. Indeed, one may be easily forgiven for mistaking the entire document for a political statement, rather than a religious, prayerful appeal to the membership of the council and Ghanaian faithful in general on current happenings in the country.
In truth, all religions sell hope, the expectation of a better tomorrow, they cannot in and of themselves, presume to offer anything equal to or more than secular authorities can do, hence the constitutional separation between the church and the state, to prevent the former from assuming roles they are not purpose-designed for.
Some preliminary observations are in order at this point. There are many quite enlightened Ghanaians who refuse to appreciate that this country has been a democracy since January 7, 1993. Every government we have had in this country since that date has been the product of the free, unfettered will of Ghanaians expressed at elections, six so far, which have been peaceful and the results accepted by all, and not an imposition by fellow Ghanaians or foreigners. This is very important to apprehending the mindset that crafts statements like these, suggesting our elected government is an imposition.
Paragraph 28 of the communiqué states baldly, but extremely dangerously, ‘’that we pursue the change we want in governance, churches, political parties, family, community, etc. without violence!’’ Really? The very thought that Christians in Ghana, as Christians, want change through non-violent means implies that some such change is being provoked by current events. It is my opinion that the Christian Council, through its General Secretary, is treading on very slippery ground here.
As a Christian myself, I appreciate the religious foundation of many of our secular practices, and find myself in agreement with the phrase ‘the voice of the people is the voice of God’, which prompts the realisation that the people choose our governments, and they do so after much prayer and reflection.
The other preliminary observation I would want to make is that, a definite majority of Ghanaians are Christians, including my very self. I do not find it amusing, or worthy of approbation sentiments expressed in my name without perceptible input from fellow Christians in the polity. I will even oppose the nationally-disruptive view that as Christian majority, we can dictate how everyone in the polity must view events of national importance. The assumption that this must be so is captured right at the beginning of the communiqué in the phrase that ‘’acknowledging our prophetic role as development partners.’’ Does this mean that the IMF, which is in town as I write, to negotiate with our government on financial assistance, has assumed a prophetic role?
Meat of statement
Let us now proceed to the meat of this statement, under eight separate headings: Ebola, chorela, statutory payments, strikes and demonstrations, public confidence, responsible mining, establishment of 200 SHSs, Winner-takes-all, and Our commitment as a council. There is nothing non-partisan about these concerns as they are reflected in public discourse at the moment, and the views expressed here in my name and those of Ghanaian Christians can be ascribed to those of known secular entities in this country.
I have written on the nebulous, confusing discovery of the so-called harm of winner-takes-all syndrome here before, and do not wish to repeat myself. The idea that a country running a multiparty system should fashion another to have multiple sources of executive power is a recipe for deliberate misgovernment in this country. It is a contrived problem supported with contrived conflictual arguments without foundation in our history since 1957. It is the creed of the impatient and the intolerant and must not be associated with the Christian Council.
About 18 years ago, the winner of the election for the head of my church, the Methodist Church, secured victory with three votes separating him from the runner-up. No one suggested that the leadership of the church be shared equally between the two top vote getters. My point is, if ecclesiastical governance can survive such close contests, why can’t secular regimes composed of lay people of faith?
How can suicides in church be a sign of anything political but not religious? If the site of the unfortunate incident is salient, why blame the fact on the secular authority? Exactly what interest has the Christian Council in the political promise for the provision of 200 SHSs by the governing party? So that if they are not provided, the Council will counsel Ghanaian Christians to vote against the government? The promise was not made to Christians alone, and it is rather unfortunate that the Council seeks to drag all of us into fulfilment or otherwise of promises as if it were a political party itself.
The entire communiqué is an ill-advised exercise in secular politicking that as a Christian, I reject. Yes, the council can and must issue statements, but its statements must of religious necessity be a healing balm to empower us in our faith, and strengthen our sense of community and nationhood. The council’s statements must be prayers and oblations to the faithful. Anything more, like the present communiqué, is a regrettable departure from the path of hope and salvation.