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Opinions of Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Columnist: Baffoe, Michael

The Wedding Craze in Our Community Churches

It is the desire to eke out a better living standard and better future for ourselves and families that has led many Ghanaians to take up residence in various parts of the world. The youth population among Ghanaians in the diaspora is growing as families give birth to children in their new places of residence or bring over children and extended family youth from our country of origin. These youth, who are the future of our communities in the diaspora are faced with numerous challenges that need the guidance, support and direction of the adults, parents and leaders in the various Ghanaian communities in the diaspora. They are also exposed to tremendous educational, skills training and employment opportunities that exist in the diaspora. This situation also places heavy responsibilities on the same adults, parents and leaders to guide the youth to take advantage of these opportunities. With the above circumstances as the backdrop, I wish to take a serious look at an aspect of the lives of the youth in the Ghanaian communities in Canada and the role that one significant group of community leaders is playing in the lives of the youth. I am concerned today with the spate of youth weddings in our community and the role that our community churches have been playing in this wedding song and dance games.

By a recent count, there were over one hundred and forty Ghanaian Community Churches across Canada with nearly a hundred of them concentrated in the Greater Toronto Area alone. The population of the Ghanaian Community in Canada is estimated around about one hundred and forty thousand, which means that there is at least one Church pastor for every one thousand Ghanaians in Canada. This is a very high Pastor per capita rate in the Ghanaian-Canadian community. This excludes our Muslim brothers who have their own Imams. With such a very high “pastor-followers” (believers) ratio in our community, we should have been one of the most peaceful and God-fearing communities in Canada. Our community should have been a shinning example of piety, Godliness and uprightness in Canada. Our community should have been immune to any of the crimes and tragedies that have befallen many other immigrant communities in Canada. But, nay! Our community, our Ghanaian-Canadian community, especially in the very City where over seventy per cent of the community’s Churches and the largest concentration of pastors you can ever find in any community are concentrated is witnessing a frightening phenomenon of youth violence and youth crimes.

I have had reason in times past to take issue with some of our community churches and their modus operandi. I have pointed out a number of times in this column how most of our community churches seem to have lost their raison d’êtres, the very objective for establishing the churches: to serve as beacon of light to the lost, the weak, the poor and the helpless. I have pointed out countless number of times, without fear or favor, how some of the churches seem to be interested in reasons far removed from the above stated noble ones.

Today I wish to discuss one particular trend in most of our community churches that is taking on a frightening pattern: the eagerness and competition to get as many of their young members to get married in the Churches. From Montreal through Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary to Vancouver, the story and trend are the same: the eagerness of the Churches to conduct as many weddings as possible throughout the year. Weddings, if well-planned and well-thought out by mature and responsible adults can be fun-filled and joyous events. They are events that are designed to join and launch matured men and women on the path to family and parenthood, “for better or for worse”. Marriage is a very serious commitment that should be taken seriously. That is the reason why the State, the government, gives Religious Leaders (Pastors) the authority to conduct marriages which are legal binding on the parties that contracted the arrangement.

It seems to me that most of the Churches and Pastors in our community have lost the real import of weddings. It appears that many of them have decided to ignore the heavy responsibilities that are placed on their shoulders as religious leaders to nurture, guide, direct and usher the young and vulnerable among their Congregation and community towards the foundations of productive life. It is my strongest submission that the Churches have a heavy responsibility to guide and teach the young among them on the heavy responsibilities, commitment and dangers involved in marriages. They have a duty to nurture them to a point where the youth have the requisite education, training, skills and employment that will ensure that their marriages in later life will be successful and less stressful.

This country abounds in endless opportunities for education, training, and skills acquisition that will provide the youth with the tools to compete effectively for good jobs on the competitive job market. The Churches and their leaders have a lot of power and influence over their followers especially the youth. The youth look up to the Church Leaders not only as spiritual guides, but as mentors. This places heavy responsibilities on the Community Churches and their Leaders to help in moulding the lives of the youth for success in later years.

The above are the reasons why I am so disappointed and frustrated at the rate at which a large number of very young people in our community churches are being given away in marriages every weekend sanctioned and blessed by the churches at very tender ages of early twenties. With their power and influence over these youth, I strongly submit that what the churches should be doing is not to encourage these young souls to get married at those early ages, but to strongly encourage them to strive hard to first take advantage of the educational and skills training opportunities that are available in this country. I have been at pains to figure out at least one or two reasons for the wedding “bumper harvest” that is taking place in our Ghanaian community churches. It seems to me that the Churches are interested in getting these children to conduct weddings in the churches because those occasions bring more people (family, friends and supporters of the wedding parties) to the church services which will surely fill the collection baskets on those days.

I am throwing a challenge to our local community churches to step back and reflect on both the short and long-term effects of these youthful weddings and marriages in their churches. They only have the effect of encouraging early parenthood among these youths when most of them have not been encouraged and directed enough to take advantage of the education, skills acquisition and good employment opportunities in this country. In the long run, many of these marriages among the immature youth may break down with all their attendant social problems.

By: Dr. Michael Baffoe

Dr. Michael Baffoe is an Assistant Professor of Social Wok at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada

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