Ghana: On the Evils of Religious Mania

opinion

No sane person can take a stick or heavy iron instrument and hit a 90-year-old woman with it.

Hit her again and again, till she dies.

By definition, then, whoever carried out such an atrocity must be mad.

However, in the "civilised" society in which we live, no person can be described as "mad" unless a trained psychiatrist has certified the person to be "mad".

So a person can kill a 90-year-old woman, or in another case, a 72-year-old woman, and walk free. Unless the law enforcement agencies decide to punish him or her - through the courts.

In the case of the 72-year-old woman, Madam AmaHemmah, her family have been waiting for the past ten years for justice to be done for her.

They're still waiting. Maybe Madam Denteh, who was unfortunate enough to be similarly assassinated at Kafaba, in Eastern Gonja, a few days ago, may fare a little better at the hands of the law. But don't count on it.

For the law enforcement section of Ghana's administrative structure is one of the least responsive to public opinion imaginable. Its members appear in nice videos, eloquently urging the public to co-operate with them in preventing crime. But when a hideous crime like killing harmless old women does land on their doorstep, they leave it lying there. For months and months and months... .

The treatment of alleged "witches" in our society is, of course, a very complex issue that is yet to be thrashed out by us as a country. Does the acceptance by many of us of Christianity, Islam and other religions that recognise the existence of "demons", tie the hands of our law enforcement agencies? Do the law enforcers generally feel that public opinion is largely on the side of those who take the law into their own hands and unleash sadistic punishment upon suspected witches?

I don't know, but please be not deceived: many police and judicial officers take a solemn oath to treat all citizens as equal before the law. Yet so widespread is belief in witches and "demons" in our society that it is not at all improbable that in ignoring the brutality visited upon witchery suspects, some police officers might think that they are in fact doing "the work of God"!

What they don't realise, rather sadly, is that if God wanted them to be witch-catchers, He wouldn't have got them to join a force whose members have to swear to enforce the law equally against all those who break the law.

The confusion between ensuring the public good and condoning unclassified "vigilantism" of all sorts is part of our problem as a people.

"A 90-year-old woman? Why is she still alive? Why does she go out at night? What is she contributing to society?"

Asking such irrelevant and, indeed, arrogant, questions is only one step away from triggering brutal actions that can lead to the death of another human being. She may be 90 whilst her assailant is only 50. Is that her fault?

Would her assailant be able to lead such a careful life as to enable the assailant to reach the ripe old age of 90? Between the 90-year-old and the 50-year-old, who has had more opportunities to do evil and be punished for doing so? If fairness were to be applied to assessing the lives of the two persons, which of them could have a better claim to the idea that he or she had been blessed by God, with a long life as the divine reward?

When people are considering such cases, they often entangle themselves with contradictions of a very tortuous nature. God does not want evil to afflict mankind, yet He empowers old women to kill the young with witchcraft or blight their lives?

God ordered us, in the Bible, to "honour thy father and thy mother" so that "thy days may be long" in the land which He has given thee. And yet He would think you were doing His "work" if you struck a 90-year-old person to death?

It's nonsense! It's about time the Ghanaian public woke up to denounce and punish those who do not care to read the Bible or the Koran with any depth and yet who do not scruple to select passages out of context to end the precious lives of their fellow citizens.

Jesus may have cast out devils/demons. But He never struck anyone a harmful blow - ever. Indeed, when Peter cut off the ear of one of the soldiers who wanted to arrest Jesus at Gethsemane, didn't Jesus put the soldier's back in its place, while counselling Peter against the use of the sword?

A major reason why certain people who profess to be believers in God's word often fall down heavily when it comes to actually practising religion is that they don't observe the most elementary rules of their own religion. For instance, Jesus advised His followers to "do unto others", what they want others to do unto them. Yet we see so-called "prophets" kicking pregnant women in the stomach, or mercilessly whipping young people in public for engaging in sexual acts.

Acts of mental cruelty are carried out by "devout" people without a thought about the victims - as can be seen from the following story.

When we were attending primary school, our Presbyterian-trained teachers often loaded a lot of Bible studies and hymn-singing into our time-table. Each class had its own religious lessons; there were also assemblies of the whole school at 8 a.m., 12 noon, two o'clock and four o'clock. And sometimes they would pack all of us into a single classroom and lead us in prayers and hymn-singing.

One day, we were in such a classroom being preached to when the teacher asked us to close our eyes and engage in "silent prayer". Everything went quiet as a result.

Then, all of a sudden, we heard a loud voice shout in the Akuapem dialect:

Me nkrɔfo!

Me nkrɔfo!

Me Monntie m'!"

The unexpected explosion of the voice and the unfamiliar "Biblical" Akuapem accent (we spoke Akyem Twi) convinced everyone that it was God who had come into the room to address us. Everyone began to look round as we all screamed loudly from fear. Those kids sitting near open windows jumped through them to escape. There was a rush towards the door. Some kids fell and were hurt.

We learnt later, when we were safely outside, that one boy had joined a Pentecostal or Apostolic Church, and was exhibiting to us, the practice of "speaking in tongues!"

We had taken things literally and assumed that it was God Himself who was addressing us. And, of course, we had run!!

True was it said that: "Everyone wants to go to Heaven. But no-one wants to die first!"

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