Ghanaian preachers are attracting international press for peculiar reasons. It is not uncommon the world over for religious figures to wade in on political issues and find themselves considered as a respected authority on a given matter. The former Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, often gave his opinion on social and political affairs and his Cape Town counterpart Desmond Tutu‘s disdain for the current incarnation of South Africa’s ruling ANC party, is well known. Ghanaian preachers are no different. And now, after years of finding (read advertising) themselves in the pages of national newspapers they too have reached the global stage. Albeit for less noble reasons.
Some background. Ghana is somewhat in the midst of economic turmoil. The currency (the cedi) has depreciated rapidly over the last year, government has spent more than it can afford and limits have been placed foreign exchange transactions. Following these events preacher Nicholas Duncan-Williams (the self-described “pioneer of the charismatic movement in Ghana” and known to his followers as “papa”) called on his congregation at his Action Chapel to pray for the country’s volatile currency thus landing himself a spot in the opener of a recent article by the Wall Street Journal on Ghana’s economy: “I command the resurrection of the cedi! In the name of Jesus! Take your hands off the central bank!”
There’s also audio of Duncan-Williams “commanding” the cedi to climb. Here.
Another influential (read celebrity) pastor, Mensa Otabil, then criticised Duncan-Williams and said that prayers were not the answer to Ghana’s problems. A week after his plea for divine intervention, Duncan-Williams lashed out at some of his followers during his Sunday service saying non-achievers have no right to criticise him.
Otabil too is known to conduct special prayers and last year he said that something bad was going to happen to the country in August if people didn’t pray.
In 2012 Reverend Isaac Owusu-Bempah predicted that President John Dramani Mahama would die (he didn’t die) after supposedly predicting the death of Mahama’s predecessor, John Atta Mills earlier that year. (BTW, Mahama himself called on Muslims and Christians alike to pray for a victory for the Black Stars against Egypt in the 2014 World Cup playoff in November.)
Sagas and revelations – newsworthy or otherwise – are regularly printed in the local daily papers but now the world is becoming increasingly privy to a snippet of Ghana’s wide-ranging religious rhetoric.
Luckily though it’s not only bizarre predictions and prayers by Ghanaian clerics that makes it into the international press and in March Cardinal Peter Turkson spoke out against Uganda’s anti-homosexual law. Though Turkson’s stance isn’t one taken by much of his fellow clergymen it nevertheless signals some rationale in a country where the lines between religion and politics, and fact and fiction are often blurred.