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Opinions of Thursday, 26 March 2020

Columnist: Charles Prempeh

Corona and the folly of a ‘National’ Cathedral: A reply to Harruna Attah


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On March 24, 2020, at the apex of the outbreak of COVID-19, I woke up to an article written by Am. Alhaji Abdul-Raham Harruna Attah that launched a serious attack against the national cathedral project in Ghana.

At a time when nations have literally come to a halt, we expect to hear nothing apart from something that will gladden our hearts in terms of a cure for COVID-19.

And at a time when brains are at work in the search for an antidote to a virus that has indeed gone viral, we least expected to read such imprudent attack against a national cathedral from a man who is expected to know better than the average Ghanaian!

Sadly, those we respect, who have age to their credit, and would have been a fountain of wisdom for the younger generation to learn from are sounding the war drum. Certainly, we would have expected a so-called experienced statesman, Amb. Alhaji Abdul-Rahman Harruna Attah, to mobilise people to assist the state to find an antidote a menacing virus. Instead, this petty- bourgeois, sitting in the comfort of his "multi-faith" room has no qualms choosing the occasion to lambast and lampoon Christians. But, indeed, we do not fret over his unpatriotic behaviour and expect such aspersions since it is part of the malignant efforts on the part Islam to destroy the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We know that since the 1960s and 1970s, particularly following the Iranian revolution that ousted the Shah regime, Muslims have seen the sense in uniting under unproductive and threatening Islamism, as opposed to Arabism, to intensify the crusade against Christianity and anything reflecting the Christian faith. Since the 1970s, the Muslim world has not reneged on its efforts in training radical Muslims all over the world, terrorising Christians and persons who stand in the way of the menacing threats of Islam. Following the patriarchalism of Islam, young Muslim men are sponsored to go to the Arab world to study Arabic and first- century Islam (sometimes ruthlessly reliving the era of jahiliyya in the twenty-first-century world).

They do not study anything relevant to the modern world, beyond furthering the imperialism of Islam, which began in the seventh century, following the death of the self- ordained and imposter, Mohammed. These Muslim youth return to Ghana to engage in divisive religious proselytization. It is no wonder that since the 1990s, Ghana witnessed unprecedented intra and inter-religious tensions. These Muslims who had been brainwashed in the Arab world had nothing good to offer the nation other than building mosques and engaging in conflicts with anyone who appeared moderate in their practice of Islam.

In Zongo communities, the 1990s witnessed the proliferation of mosques and religious conflicts. The beginning of 2000s also saw most mosques undergoing refurbishment and decorations. I guess Mr Harruna Attah should have something meaningful to say to his people's penchant to build mosques.

Mr Harruna Attah, please if you think the national cathedral is a “damn thing” as you call it in your ill-conceived article, please rethink and call the imperialism of the Muslim world, being fronted by Turkey, to order. You should be smart enough to know that those building the national cathedral have done better in advancing Ghana’s socio-economic development than your people whose best bet in the struggle against colonialism was to sing, “Yaa yi wa wa, bature ya yi wa wa” to “to wit: the white man has become a fool.” Even here, the contention of these ex-servicemen was because the British had failed to live up to the promise they made to the ex-servicemen. At least, every major church in Ghana now has a university.

Islam was in Ghana (later to be called Gold Coast) about hundred years before Christianity, what has Islam done for this nation? Even the university that has the name Islam attached to it (referring to Islamic University College, Ghana) was built by the Shi’a, a group that some hardliners in Sunni Islam disagree with. Indeed, as you rant against the national cathedral, kindly tell us what Islam, after centuries in Ghana has done for us? Beyond targeting anything Christians do, please tell us how Islam has really contributed to the socio-economic development of Ghana.

You claim the national cathedral is a damn thing! Fair enough! As a resident of one of the Zongo communities for the past three decades, I challenged some of your leaders to stem the tide against the damn Arab imperialism. When the Turkish government decided to build the huge mosque around Kawokudi (or Ruga) that is nothing short of a drop in a desert (considering the extent of poverty in Zongo communities), I told your people that they should insist on a university rather a mosque. I literally went on my knees, as a young man, telling your people to do what Christians do best – empowering people through knowledge. But, as usual, because they knew they would get some kickbacks, they committed to that imposing edifice in my community. Truly, the corruption that suffocated the project has made the project lingered for more than ten years. Mr former Ambassador, I challenge you to call your people to order that they should develop their heads, coveting knowledge through the building of universities and important centres of learning. They should not only deepen their indebtedness to Arab imperialism by continuously building mosques. Zongo communities are choked with mosques, and yet many people are congested in single rooms – it is this kind of congestion that is a threat to the nation, in the face of coronavirus, not the national cathedral! You suggested that the cathedral should be used as an inter-faith edifice. Well, this has been the position of Muslims, since the announcement of the national cathedral was made.

In fact, Sheikh Aremeyaw Shuaib, the spokesperson of the national chief imam, was one of the earliest persons to have made this suggestion. I have a question for you: why didn’t you tell the Turkish government to construct a similar edifice that will enhance Christian-Muslim relations in Ghana? Why did you sit down quietly in the comfort of your “inter-faith” room to allow the Turkish government to rekindle the spirit of neo-colonialism in a twenty-first- century Ghana? Why don't you tell the Arab world to train your people in medicine, engineering, and architecture, instead of indoctrinating them with an atavism for first-century Islam (a century that was nothing short of a blood-tasty prophet, killing and spilling blood to satisfy a deity, also called Allah)? Mr Harruna Attah, I am challenging you to stem the tide against Islamic imperialism by calling your people to resist the efforts of the Arabs at using them to further the wish of a blood-thirsty deity. Give your people education and encourage them to pursue peace. Give them relevant skills and they will provide services that will facilitate peaceful interfaith interactions.

At any rate, Christians do not look forward to attacking Muslims. We do not openly condemn Muslims as Muslims do to us. If you think I am wrong on this, do a sample of the content of open-air preaching of your leaders in Zongo communities and sample the kinds of polemical books they sell.

You also claim that the national cathedral smacks of discrimination against people of other religions.

This ridiculousness in thinking is reflected in your myopic knowledge about the cathedral.

Mr Harruna Attah, be informed that no place of worship for the Christian is closed to non-Christians. Anybody at all, with good intention, apart from a Muslim terrorist, is allowed to worship in the church. One needs not to necessarily bleat the Shahadah, confessing a blood-thirsty and imposter prophet (pun intended, as you did with your article), before one can participate in church prayer. The church is a place of refuge for all.

No need for unnecessary rituals. Certainly, this is unlike the mosque, where one needs to pretend to be temporarily “pure” through the performance of ablution before one can be given access.

Anyway, I suggest they extend the ablution to the cleansing of the heart. Since the intention to sin (niyyah) does not come from the feet, hands, ears, mouth, or eyes. It comes from the heart.

So, belabouring the washing of these mundane parts of the body will do Muslims no good. That is why after years of washing, most Muslims are ever ready to take arms against Christians.

Perhaps you are right, we need an inter-faith dialogue centre to help Muslims calm down and possibly see the Lord Jesus Christ as the only credible saviour of the elect of God. So, if people of all walks of life, apart from Muslim terrorists, have intentions of using the national cathedral when completed, they are free to do so. It is not like the one Turkish is building, which will be limited to only Muslims. So, your fears should be directed at the Turkish mosque in my community, not Christian national cathedral.

In the same vein, because you are so much at pains to run down the national cathedral, you are rubbishing its architectural creativity and ingenuity. If you care to know, architecture is not just about what we see; it is also about the vision, philosophy, and dreams it conveys and embodies.

Through architecture, we learn about history, beliefs, and appreciate people's sense of aesthetics.

Even when the west supposedly turned their backs on churches, they turned their attention to cathedrals as historical memorialisation of their history. But it is the non- trivialisation of architecture that explains the mad rush in Zongo communities to renovate mosques to reflect those of the imperialist Arab world.

Again, Mr Harruna Attah, a supposed statesman, you claim Ghana is not in shortage of places of worship. If this argument is true, why don’t you stop your people from building mosques on every piece of space? Why do they pull down houses to accommodate people in Zongo communities to mount mosques?

Certainly, Most Muslims in Ghana believe that building mosques will enhance their qualification to heaven.

This is one reason why Zongos continue to witness proliferation of needless mosques. In fact, if you mean what you are advising, the best advice is a good example. Tell your people to stop building mosques, since Zongoes already have enough of them.

In the same way, we do know that it is the intra-religious conflicts that are encouraging the preponderance of mosques in Zongo communities. Tell Saudi Arab to stop radicalising Muslims so that available space would be used for schools to educate Muslim youth.

Certainly, your advice is to your Muslim people. I must also add that the national cathedral is not only for cultic purposes. I surmise that with your calibre, you should not have difficulties accessing information about the multiple purposes of the cathedral.

Given your position on it, it is either you are deliberately fomenting hatred for the project and enriching animosity against Christians or you are ignorant about what cathedral does. Both ways, you are wrong in thinking that the national cathedral is just going to be another place of worship.

Do you even know that it is going to house a museum for the Bible, the book that has the message of our salvation? Do you know that it is going to be used for other public events? Anyways, I hope the Turkish mosque in my community is also going to have multiple functions, beyond the senior high school that is attached to it.

Mr Harruna Attah, it is sad that you do not know what secularism is about. You have joined the foolhardy who keep bleating about Ghana’s supposed secular status without understanding the nuances of secularity/secularism and secularisation.

You quoted Nkrumah to support Ghana’s supposed secularity. By the way, Nkrumah did not declare Ghana a secular state in the way you are deploying the concept – absence of religion in the public sphere. Nkrumah’s concept of consciencism, which was a fusion and synthetization of Ghana's triple heritage, Islam, Christianity, and indigenous religions, was meant to foster a nation that appreciated religion as central to our repertoire of doing things.

By the way, do you know that Nkrumah often run to the church anytime he had difficulties? When he was

released from prison in the 1950s, he ran to the spiritual founder of the Mosama Disco Christo Church, in search of spiritual purging and restitution. On the eve of independence, Nkrumah again went to the MDCC to know what day and month to choose for the country’s independence.

Mr Harruna Attah, while Nkrumah sometimes had an ambivalent attitude towards the church (calling himself a non-denominational Christian and a Marxist socialist), he did not preach secularism – in terms of the absence of religion in the public sphere.

His style was the accommodation of all the religions. This is what Christians have always done. While we have an overwhelming demographic advantage, we have never considered it prudent to suppress Muslims. I hope you have read about how Muslims suppressed the Christians in Lebanon.

I hope you are also aware of how some Muslims in Egypt, inspired by the blood-thirsty Sun-deity (pun intended), are persecuting the minority Coptic Christians.

Another needless point you make is that not every Christian supports the national cathedral.

Certainly, if you had applied some basic logic – taught as part of critical thinking, you would have known that the inclusive article “all” in a sentence is always problematic, especially if you are dealing with human beings. So, we are not surprised that not every Christian supports the cathedral.

While some may have political motivations not to support the project (reflecting the NDC-NPP polarity in Ghana), there are those groups who do not identify with evangelical Christianity in Ghana.

For example, the groups you mentioned – the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses – do not identify with mainstream Christianity and will certainly not support any collective activity. I think you are aware that these groups were banned from operating in Ghana under the Religious Bodies [Registration] Law in 1989. These groups, largely considered cults of Christianity, do not accept the cardinal teachings of the Christian faith. And of course, it is no wonder that you, who belong to anti-Christian religion, can serve on the charity board of the Mormons.

I wish Islam will allow a Christian to do the same with their organisations. In any case, it is not only Christianity that has groups who do not share the cardinal teachings of the faith.

You should know the case of Nation of Islam and Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, who do not share the teachings of other Muslims. The good news is that while Christians do not persecute persons who deviate from the teachings of the faith, in Islam the same cannot be said. You should know how the idea of orthodoxy was deployed to hound the Ahmadiyya out of Pakistan in the 1970s. By the way, you know that your prophet was “right” in saying that your religion – Islam, will have seventy-seven divisions. I pray we don’t witness the seventy-seven division in Ghana, for that will be a catalyst for chaos. Already with just two main factions in the same Sunni tradition – Ahlu Sunna and Tijaniyya – you are unable to coexist in the same space. I was wondering why you decided to rob your supposed “inter-faith” home in our face. If your wife is a Christian, even though you remain a Muslim, what has that got to do with us? Anyways, I should believe your wife, being a “Christian” has not been tagged a nonentity in her family. This is because unlike Muslims, where a Muslim woman who marries a Christian man is considered an abomination and suffers social death, in the case of Christians, we rather pray for such persons. We believe that our God is the one who converts, not persecution – which has always been the tool available to Islam. Even the crusades, which the Christians were involved in was largely in response to Muslim aggression to take over the land of Jerusalem. I believe you know how the word ‘mirage’ in English was a direct borrowing of Mi’raj in Islam to show how Muslims were deluded to have thought that your prophet was taken to heaven through the Temple of Jerusalem. Strangely, a temple that was destroyed about five centuries before the rise of Islam was physically available to have served as a conduit for your prophet to go to heaven where sex will prevail unabashedly.

By the way, the “mi’raj” was spiritual, why did you build a mosque in that space? Why do you fight over Jerusalem? Anyways, back to track, you think if your wife were a Muslim, your parents – if they belonged to the radical sect from Saudi Arabia, would have allowed her to marry you (assuming you were a Christian man)? In any case, your wife chose to marry you in pursuant of her wishes, not her faith.

This is precisely because Jesus Christ did not endorse Christians to marry non-Christians. This is not coterminous to saying that Christians do not endorse peaceful co-existence of religions. You may want to read my academic article (“Contemporary Zongo Communities in Accra Interfaith Marriages: The Case of Muslims and Christians in Accra”), published by a high-ranking journal, African Studies Quarterly, on the issues of interfaith marriages in Zongo communities in Accra.

Finally, you were wondering what the national cathedral has got to do with the coronavirus at hand.

Well, you should by now know that powerful nations of the world are calling on Christians to pray. Nations that your ill-informed understanding of secularity would have had nothing to do with religion are now calling for prayer intervention.

I can assure that the scarecrows built around the COVID-19 are because of people like you think technology is the answer to every problem.

The fear that technology is failing us in the face of COVID-19 is the cause of the fear invested in the virus. By the way, churches, like the Church of Pentecost – which supports the national cathedral, are giving cars, money and other resources to support the state to fight the virus. What is Islam doing? I end that we will continue to build the national cathedral to the glory of God. We will not be discouraged by naysayers like you.

We will not be deterred by your partisan knowledge of things. We will be encouraged to build it. No one is asking you to impose your “inter-faith” home on us; neither are we asking for your knowledge or money. If you have any advice on how to use resources judiciously, just tell your people in Islam to avoid pilgrimaging multiple times to show off, as they take imperialist title like Alhaji and Alhajia. They should rather channel their money into building schools and universities.

And finally, whether a stone from Israel is used as part of the foundation of the national cathedral or not is nothing compared to the geocentricism of Islam, where the black stone is worshipped and where prayer is void until it is directed at an idol edifice in Mecca. It is also not compared to incessant kissing of black stone for salvation.

In the end, the Bible says it is only a fool who calls the things of God folly (Psalm 14:1).

Satyagraha

Charles Prempeh (prempehgideon@yahoo.com), African University College of Communications, Accra

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