Opinions of Wednesday, 25 May 2011
Columnist: Owusu-Ansah, Emmanuel Sarpong
By Emmanuel Sarpong Owusu-Ansah (Black Power)
I have always considered it a duty to investigate and expose the ills of society (particularly the Ghanaian society) and to impartially analyse topical and scandalous issues such as Amina’s alleged mass rape incident, the sexual assault of the other Amina by some barbaric university students, and the recent chaos within the Ghanaian judicial institution. The time is now ripe for a critical look to be taken at another important issue – the proliferation of “mushroom” churches and fake Ghanaian pastors abroad.
Over the last decade, the Ghanaian and other international media have brought into the open, a number of heinous crimes involving pastors within the Ghanaian society – crimes ranging from sexual abuse to deceit and other fraudulent activities. As a concerned son of the great nation, Ghana, I have taken the exciting pain to investigate the extent to which pastors contribute to the predicaments of a considerable number of Ghanaians abroad. The rationale is to conscientize all Ghanaians especially those in the West about the upsurge of wolves in sheep skins, and to advise them to be wary of a number of pastors, since forewarned is forearmed.
In my quest to come up with credible findings, 100 African migrants and immigrants (50 men and 50 women), mostly Ghanaians, living in western countries specifically the UK and Italy were interviewed (that the small sample size somehow limits the credibility of the findings is graciously admitted). They (the respondents) were encouraged to mention why they go to church, to express their opinions on the credibility of Ghanaian pastors in the UK and Italy, and to share any experiences that they might have had with any pastor(s). I do not intend to provide full details of the research findings here. However, I can mention that 52 out of the 100 respondents, who were in fact selected at random, had some kind of unpleasant personal experiences with some Ghanaian pastors in western countries to share; while 48 gave positive testimonies in favour of pastors. This article is thus based on the findings of this personal research conducted between August 2010 and February 2011. It presents a very brief summary of the activities, motivation and the modus operandi of the fake Ghanaian pastors in western countries.
The Christian faith as generally established, was first conveyed to Africa by the western world, specifically Western Europe. Ironically however, the Christian religion is hugely losing its appeal among Whites in many western countries, and gaining much more grounds and expansion in Black Africa than any other continent or region on earth. Many people are striving to establish the rationale behind the striking pace at which Christianity is growing within Black communities. Four factors have so far been identified: the desire to go to heaven (and of course dodge hell by living a Christ-like life), the need to socialize, the desire to overthrow poverty and enthrone prosperity, and the perceived innately religious nature of Africans. The appalling comportment of a massive percentage of contemporary Christians, at times compels me to doubt the seriousness of some of the Christians who claim they go to church so as to receive what St Paul calls ‘the unfading crown of righteousness’ someday (2 Timothy 4: 8).
Realizing how desperately numerous Africans are trying to avoid poverty by migrating to the West, many pastors or religious leaders who are more interested in prosperity than salvation are now encouraging mass migration by offering “constant prayers” for the fulfilment of the dreams of numerous would-be migrants. How these poor people make it to their target destinations is not the materialistic pastors’ concern. What concerns them is the fat monthly “tithe” the would-be migrants would be pumping into their churches’ coffers or directly into their pockets once they get to the “Promised Land”. Out of selfishness or greed, they fail to use their commanding position to educate people about the perils of the Sahara-Mediterranean and other illegal journeys to the so-called civilized countries.
Some pastors quite ridiculously would even gladly offer to pray for the fulfilment of the dreams of someone ignorantly planning to go to a place as dangerous as the Kosovo of old, Afghanistan, Iraq, or Libya just because they are populated by “light-skinned” people. Desperate to get visas or to successfully embark on illegal journeys to Europe and other industrialized countries, prospective migrants easily succumb to the instructions of pastors to fast for days and weeks. Sadly, many are those who either deteriorate their ulcer problems and other stomach complications, or develop one. Some are made to sleep on mountain “head and foot”, exposing themselves to the risk of mosquito or snake bites, and of course diseases.
When these Africans manage to make it to the West, their lives are made even more miserable by other so-called pastors hiding behind a façade of Christianity. With immigration rules and laws tightening up almost every day and jobs and money becoming more and more difficult to come by in almost all western countries, there has been the emergence of what I call the survival of the “shrewdest” or the possessor of Kwaku Ananse-like brain (people skilled in outwitting, deceiving or cheating others). A significant number of people who used to be bankers, entertainers, scientists, lecturers, musicians, police officers, etc., have all of a sudden become pastors, completely abandoning their original professions. Lamentably, most of them turn out to be bogus.
These false men of God whose words supremely contradict their deeds and actions, cunningly capitalize on the five most important things in the lives of contemporary Africans especially African immigrants in the West, namely: legal status, marriage, children, employment, and wealth, to divert a chunk of the immigrants’ hard-earned money into their pockets. A huge number of these people who become pastors in the western world overnight, turn into connection men, self-employed or self-appointed immigration officers, and unofficial advisors on immigration issues. They promise to help immigrants to get temporary or permanent legal status, and take huge sums of pounds, euros or dollars from them only to vanish into thin air. What a shame! What a pity! Others pretend to be helping couples solve their marriage problems or have children through regular prayer meetings in the pastors’ houses and at times in hotels only to end up sleeping with the women. I, as a matter of fact struggle to comprehend why a woman would trust a so-called man of God who uses a hotel room as his “prayer camp”.
The phony pastors make ignorant immigrants believe that they (the “pastors”) are next to angels. They tell fabricated or concocted “prophecies” to some members and even non-members of their churches just to get their attention and gain their interest and trust, only to squeeze money out of their purses/wallets. In the UK for instance, the economic/financial system is designed in such a way that a huge percentage of people’ earnings “disappears” as soon as it enters their accounts (i.e. for payment of rent, utility bills, council tax, insurance, etc.). It thus becomes very difficult or almost impossible to make any substantial savings. Aware of this general situation, one of the usual “prophecies” or “revelations” that fake pastors make is: ‘The Spirit has revealed to me that you work very hard, yet you are not able to save and remain penniless. My brother, we need to pray; the devil is a liar. Your mother’s sister out of jealousy has dug a hole in your palm so that any money that you lay hands on, gets drained. My brother, meet me in my Church … so we can talk and pray together’.
One interesting thing about some Christians, particularly women, is their eagerness to narrate every single dream they have to their pastors. Fake pastors always have some supernatural or mystical interpretation to every single dream narrated to them, even hallucinations resulting from fever or intoxication. The false pastor is very much aware that a church member’s monthly wages is not enough to pay their rent let alone bills, yet they are forced to pay “tithe” or make some kind of offering. An immigrant loses his/her job and goes to a pastor for prayers only to be asked to plant a seed of £100 before the prayers could be offered or be effective. Where is this unemployed person going to get the money?
I must however emphasize that there are some genuine and very good pastors/people of God out there, who are making positive and significant difference in people’s lives spiritually and materially. To them, I say BRAVI! CHE DIO VI BENEDICA.
‘Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.’ (1 John 4: 1). By their fruits, you shall know them (Matthew 7: 16, 20). A word to the wise is enough.
Certainly not all people as usual may agree with the points made in this article. Some “over-religious” people may even be tempted to erroneously refer to me as anti-Christ, anti-pastors, anti-Christians, etc. Your opinions on my article are as always, graciously welcomed whether positive or negative.
MY DESIRE IS TO WITNESS A TOTAL TRANSFORMATION OF ALL THE MAJOR INSTITUTIONS IN GHANA BEFORE I BREATHE MY LAST. GOD BLESS GHANA.
Emmanuel Sarpong Owusu-Ansah (aka Black Power) is a lecturer and an investigative journalist in London, UK. He is the author of ‘Fourth Phase of Enslavement: unveiling the plight of African immigrants in the West’