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Opinions of Tuesday, 9 March 2004

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Prophecies And Our Culture

Kofi Akosah-Sarpong says despite being unpleasant to discuss the increases in prophecies in Ghana reveal not only social stress and strain caused by poverty and modernization but emanate from the negative values in our culture

Sampson Kwaku Boafo, Ghana?s Ashanti Regional Minister, is a lawyer and an evangelist. For this reason, he has deeper insight into the world of Ghana?s booming spiritual churches business. It is not surprising to hear him ?expressed concern about false prophecies by some self-acclaimed men of God, crafted to defraud and dupe people of their wealth.? In Ghana (and West African) history of prophecies, the influence of prophesies go deeper, having implications in our development.

Most coup plotters had been prophesized to topple legitimate governments, and considering the massive havoc military coups have caused Ghana (and West Africa), Boafo?s cautionary urgings comes at the right time in Ghana (and West Africa?s) development. The region is so littered with prophets/prophetesses and their corresponding prophecies that there are some sorts of prophecy warfare in the region, culminating in the ensuing crises in the region. Ghana?s Gen. Kutu Acheampong is said to have receive a prophecy that he will rule Ghana. And so was Nigeria?s Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Guinea Bissau?s Gen. Ansumani Mann, Liberia?s Gen. Samuel Doe, Sierra Leone?s warlord Foday Sankoh and many more They were all disaster as the situation in the region demonstrates

Boafo, a long-running politician of the ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP) camp, was exiled to Britain by the totalitarian Rawlings military juntas. His residences in Europe and Ghana have sharpened his sense of spirituality, and the part it places in national development. His observation that ?false prophecies were on the ascendancy in recent times, and called on Church leaders to initiate measure to stop the practice if Christianity was to spread and gain root? does not come from a novice but a man who has a thorough grasp of the whole damn prophetic schemes and is disturbed by a people not only mired in such irrational rantings but under the grip of a culture they find it difficult to extricate themselves from. The Ghana News Agency (GNA) says Boafo told a congregation of the Apostolic Church Bible College in Kumasi, a hotbed of spiritual churches, marabou/Mallams in Ghana, that Christians have ?to be wary of the activities of charlatans and not to fall prey to false prophets.? While Boafo?s admonitions to a people helpless in the face of aggressive spiritual churches feeding on their weaknesses and distresses, as a politician and more so, as regional minister, he should have gone deeper, and tell Ghanaians (and their fellow West Africans) that part of the reasons for their being swayed by the ?prophets? is because of their poverty and its accompanying multiplier effects which have created social stress and strain. The only way, therefore, for them to free themselves from such ?charlatans? is to work hard and rationalize their problems in terms of the Ghanaian situation. For in a deadly spiritual game, the charlatans, like Uganda?s insurgent group, the Lord?s Resistance Army, mix Biblical Old and New Testaments with West Africa?s juju, marabou and other such rituals in their so-called prophetic work. This spiritual confusion is transmitted to their unfortunate clients, who in turn transmit such to the larger society, hence the long-running confusion in the region.

Boafo recognized that the mad rush for young men and women to join the priesthood wasn?t because it was their ?calling,? to use a term from the great German sociologist Max Weber, but because it is an easy way to money-making; preying on their distresses, their gullibilities and their ignorance, of which the Ghanaian (and West African) culture is partly responsible, and the breeding ground, a culture where problems and challenges are attributed to unseen forces, especially witchcraft and other evil spirits. Here demonology holds sway over classical, rational explanations of troubles, problems and challenges. While Boafo asked the pastors to ?comport themselves to depict them as heads of 'the Church of Christ' and not engage in social vices such as visa and business deals,? he should have used the occasion to enjoin the new priests to use their platforms to educate their congregations, most of whom are illiterate, ignorant and have exaggerated expectations from prophecies, to be objective in life and seek advise and other counseling from experts in their attempt to find solution to their troubles. This will lessen some of their cultural/spiritual burdens, most of which are their own ignorant constructions?no prophecy can free them from such unnecessary burden.

The horrendous belief in prophecies, which emanates from the Ghanaian (or West African) belief in unseen forces, according to Dirk Kohnert of Institute of African Affairs, Hamburg, Germany, is deeply rooted in many African societies, regardless of education, religion and social class of the people concerned. In Ghana (or West African), while the poor and the deprived are the main clients, or magnet, of the prophets, most ?Big Men? are engaged in high spiritual rituals and other such practices (since this involve higher expenditure), thus creating a boom in prophecies and their corresponding demand for priests/priestesses. The social stress and strain that created the sharp rush for prophecies also explain ?the hidden social conflicts? which underlie the stress and strain.

You need not to go to a priest to prophecy about any hidden conflict in one?s life in a society that is poverty-ridden and is in the modernization process. Ghana?s Centre for Civic Education, the genuine churches, mosques and other religious bodies and the increasing non-government organizations could help the poor, prophecy-crazed folks better if they can mount social campaigns to educate the public about the implications of prophecies in their development. If anything, Boafo should have used the occasion to challenge Ghanaian prophets to use their craft to transform Ghana into a comfortable society like other countries that are doing well materially.

In a country where most of the juju, marabou, witchdoctors and other such practices are more located in the rural areas than urban regions (just ask most of the coup plotters and armed robbers), Boafo?s argument that the new priests/priestesses should ?propagate the message of Christ to remote areas where their services were needed most? is well placed in relation to such social problem existing in Ghana (and West Africa) since it well test the powers of the new priests/priestesses in rooting out such negative native spiritual values that have partly contributed to the predicaments of not only Ghana but the entire West Africa, where juju, marabou and other such practices are dominant compared to other parts of Africa.


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