Aspects of Religion, Culture & Development
- Nature of African Religion; country profiles, Religion and development.
- Fatalism & Concepts of Divine authorship.
- Witchcraft (magic & sorcery) & development
- Implications for individual rights.
- Implications for attitudes to contemporary business culture
- Some Reading
Opoku O. 2001, ‘Deliverance as a way of Confronting Witchcraft in Modern Africa: Ghana as a Case History’ Cyberjournal for Pentecostal Charismatic Research. No. 10
Evans-Pritchard, E. E. 1937 Witchcraft, Oracles and magic Among the Azande. Oxford: Clarendon Press
Goody, E. N. 1970,‘Legitimate and Illegitimate Aggression in a West African State’ in M. Douglas ed. Witchcraft Confessions and Accusations. ASA Monograph 9, London
Chapt Six in Culture and Development book.
See also Kewl e-learning for e-journal article on witchcraft.
- The Place of Religion in Life
It is said that African religion is fetishism; that Africans are incurably religious.
- The African is said to be superstitious.
- The Ghanaian is said to abide by the fatalistic philosophy of ‘fama nyame’ [leave it all to God].
- While there is some truth in all this, it is not the case that all Africans are identical in these respects. Just as there are Africans who are incurably religious, supers-titious & fatalistic, some people are not.
- There are even African agnostics who do not believe in God, or spirits and in their power to influence or control events. They do not believe in the after-life.
- K. Dogbevi: ‘Ghana’s political leadership & religion’
Ghanaians are compulsively religious. … ‘they are notoriously religious’. Religion is pervasive in Ghanaian society; it brushes the corridors of power including contemporary politics. Ghanaian political leaders and especially power seekers, play the religious card so often, they play it so openly to the extent that it becomes difficult to separate religion from politics in periods when they are competing for votes.
Ghanaian political leaders claim to be religious, but it appears they openly deny the basic tenets of religious demand on the individual
- Top 10 Religious Nations
- Question of Religion in Development
Religion goes with morality that prescribes honesty, love, charity, hope and diligence, respect for self and others, and for nature etc.
Out of fear of divine sanction or expectation of immediate or eternal reward people abide by laws, norms & basic morality. This should promote development.
But people also violate human rights for religious reasons – killings and wars in the name of God.
- Some religious taboos are negative. Taboo against farming or fishing on certain days is unproductive.
- A Taboo that can’t bode well: Tano & Goats
.. at Elubo, goats are, in effect, “out of bounds.” No one can rear or slaughter goats there, or cross the River Tano with them. The punishment for flouting this unwritten order is death.
According to some of the .. people of the town, it has been a taboo from time immemorial for anyone to rear, eat or cross River Tano with a goat into the town.
… people who dared to bring the animal to Elubo “paid dearly for it” and the animals only lived for less than three hours and died.
Source: The Mirror Posted on: 25-Aug-2007
- Implications of ‘Fama Nyame’
Fama nyame suggests absolute trust in God: God knows best, God will decide, etc., so leave it to God’s better judgement.
This can mean that controversies, conflicts, grievances are not settled by self-help and vengeance. This makes for peace and order.
But it also implies indolence – people become passive as they depend on Providence to protect them & provide for their needs.
In another sense it results in exploitation: crooks exploit the public in God’s name. Thus while pastors become billionaires, followers are impoverished. Religion can indeed become an opiate [Opium].
- The President who would have squandered the orphan’s meal
‘Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika has temporarily abandoned his controversial $100 million (83 million euro) palace in the administra-tive capital Lilongwe because he is being haunted by ghosts, a top aide said’.
Daily Graphic, Monday, March 14th, 2005, page 5 (AFP/GNA/BBC).
This may be true or mere character defamation; all the same, it illustrates what religion can do.
- The gods: Protectors of the Environment
Chiefs and fetish priests of the Akyem state in the Eastern Region and its environs have performed necessary rituals to appease the god of the Birim River.
The river god is believed to have been angry at the youth in the town who were engaging in illegal mining (galamsey) activities and polluting the river.
The paramount chief of Kade … warned against polluting the Birim River to avoid the wrath of God. Osabarima Agyare … noted that if pollution of the river does not come to an end, greater calamity will befall the people living around it. The chief gave the warning in the wake of the current heavy flooding ..
Adom New: July, 2011
Reader’s Comments: A whole community of intelligent people has been misled by uneducated fetish priestess.
- CASE OF AFRIKANIA MISSION’S OBJECTIVES
Founder: Osofo-Okomfo Kwabena Damuah
.. liberate .. soul and body from all bondage of all kinds ..
.. teach people .. self-reliance by organising them to … provide for themselves basic needs of both soul and body
.. promote religious liberty and tolerance as fundamental human right as enshrined in the UN Charter;
.. help bring about proper understanding of moral and spiritual values for peace and progress in the world;
.. set up schools and institutions to .. promote the best of Africa’s rich religious moral and cultural heritage;
.. practice the teaching that religion is basically a life of righteous-ness and good works within the framework of one’s culture and that work done in the spirit of love and service to humankind is worship and prayer at the same time.
.. uphold and live by the principles that true service to mankind is service to God.
- GHANAIAN RELIGIOUS PROFILES
In Africa there are countries that are predominantly Moslem (Senegal, Magreb etc.), some are Christian (Ethiopia). Many are multi-religious
Islam: 16% of Ghanaians –majority Sunni, but Sufi and Ahmadiyya etc. exist. (N-Region: 56.1% are Moslem)
Christians: Christian 68.8% (Pentecostal/Charismatic 24.1%, Protestant 18.6%, Catholic 15.1%, other 11%)
Traditional Religion: about 8.5% (U-East Region: 46.4%);
None 6.1%; Other 0.7%.
The question of coexistence arises.
- Africa: a melting pot of religions.
Despite classification into Christian, Moslem, Traditional-ists etc. people are eclectic in religious orientations.
A Christian goes to church, but may partake of ancestral rituals or visit soothsayers and even Malams;
Faiths may be syncretic – borrowing from each other.
Some people are tolerant of religious and doctrinal differences, but some are not.
Religious conflicts can exist between faiths, and within denominations; they account for wars, death & destruction in places like Nigeria, Sudan etc. setting back development.
Two Muslim sects clash over some teachings in Qur’an
From: Ghana|Myjoyonline.com|Joy News
Published: August 19, 2012
A number of people got injured when two Muslim sects in Tamale clashed at a radio station Sunday evening.
The Tijaniya and the Al-Sunnah sects engaged in the violent confrontation at the Northern Star Radio, over the varied interpretation of some verses in the Qur’an. Property including motorbikes were also reported to have been destroyed.
- Example of Eclectism: Fetish priest
storms church to recover juju
Two years ago, Mr. Agyei Yeboah, founder and leader of Vision Charismatic Chapel allegedly consulted Nana Kwaku Bonsam at his shrine in Akomadan-Afrancho for a special juju to establish a church at Kato, his home-town. The prominent fetish priest, …, obliged and prepared a special juju at the cost of GH¢550, out of which the pastor instantly paid GH¢100, promising to pay the remainder in a few days. Pastor Agyei Yeboah, after taking delivery of the juju, came back a few weeks later and paid an additional amount of GH¢100 to Nana Kwaku Bonsam.
Daily Guide, April, 2008
- African Religion and Cosmology
- Supremacy of a creator God – Onyankopong is recog-nised; the earth may be a god/goddess.
- The ancestors are venerated by sacrifice and prayer;
- A pantheon of lesser gods & spirits have a role: they may be good or bad, or just neutral;
- Spirits have guises and some assume human form. Indeed not all men/women are persons, some are masquerades (a reason for some people not to be treated as humans).
- Man is mortal: with body that decays and a spirit (kra) and soul (susum). Death results when the spirit leaves the body.
- Man has a destiny and there is life after death.
- African Trad. Religion [ATR]
The deities sanction behaviour – punishing and rewarding. African ancestors – the living dead – are close to humans and they too sanction ethics & morality.
Divinities not only interested in social relations, they also check environmental abuses; it is their abode.
- The environment is not therefore to be exploited ruthlessly, i.e. polluting, cutting trees or killing animals with abandon, excavating and digging. See MDG 7
- Environmental hazards are therefore blamed on human abuses. ATR supports development.
‘If entrepreneurs refuse to expand their business because of the fear of envy leading to witchcraft attacks then the whole country is suffering as a result of this belief system’
Sefa-Dadeh (2004: 101)
- What does Sefa-Dedeh mean?
- ‘Juju in Black Stars camp is nothing new’
– Coach Milovan Rajevac
Former coach of the national team … has added his voice to the use of black magic by some players in the Black Stars team..
The issue of juju in the Black Stars team became a major talking point in Ghana football after .. coach Goran Stevanovic claimed in his report to the Ghana Football Association that players used black magic against each other during the Nations Cup.
.. Goran Stevanovic stated .. “we all need to help in changing some players’ mentality about using black power to destroy themselves and also make sure we install discipline and respect for each other.”
- Witchcraft : Psychic Harm
It is believed that while God, deities, ancestors, wild spirits, etc. are the source of misfortune, it can also come from man’s malice. Those responsible: an associate, a relative (spouse, child, parent).
Such misfortune may take any form – failure in social or economic ventures, illness, accidents, injury, death etc.
- It is believed that some people have powerful spirits that do strange things – fly, change into dangerous animals, carry out nocturnal misadventures etc.
- Such powers possessed by humans may be inherent or acquired.
- This is known as witchcraft: possession and exercise of personal spiritual powers for good or evil.
- Witchcraft and Sorcery
Witchcraft as psychic & spiritual, its modus operandi not visible to the ordinary eye.
Characteristics vary from society to society. In some societies. It can be involuntary:(Azande case) a witch may not know s/he is responsible for the harm caused to others. But some witches are aware.
Sorcery – ‘juju’, which is equally harmful, is based on learnt techniques and manipulation of objects.
In both cases proof is often hard to come by; much is based on suspicion or what the witch doctor or diviner says. Occasionally there is self-confession.
- Pervasiveness of Witchcraft
W-craft beliefs go back a long way in human history; some scholars see them as unscientific searches for causality or explanation of uncanny phenomena?
W-craft answers question why certain misfortunes happen.
Science can answer the question how but not always why. The why is the remote cause which is not self evident. Yet people need answers.
This explains persistence of w-craft beliefs even among educated people.
- Academic Concerns
From our point of view the question is not whether witchcraft exists or not, or whether witches are capable of the harm that others or they themselves claim.
What is significant is the effect of the beliefs on society. This makes it a developmental issue.
W-craft beliefs can have positive & negative socio-economic implications.
W-craft has gender implications;
It affects community life & individual participation as well as choices.
The negative effects of w-craft outweigh any good.
- Witch-Hunting: Fault-Finding
As evidence for guilt is often difficult to establish W-Craft is inevitably associated with accusations.
Who tend to be Accused
The highly successful – phenomenal success invites suspicion of spiritual intervention (even malpractice).
- Women (the childless, widows) etc. Also the orphan.
- The cantankerous, the talkative, the reticent, the envious, those who engage in incest, homosexual intercourse etc.
- The deformed, the very ugly, the very beautiful, the red-eyed etc.
Technically then who can be spared?
- Case: Killing a 62-Year Old Widow
Police in Tamale have arrested two people who allegedly battered to death a woman they accused of being a witch. The two accused … a 62-year-old widow of bewitching a 23-year-old boy, … in Gilic, a community close to Bunpkrugu Yunyoo district in the Northern Region. The deceased was said to be in possession of the soul of the 23-year-old for which reason she was subjected to severe beating until she collapsed and died ..
Date: July 2010
- Case 2: Neglect & Death of 9 Year Old Boy
The Takoradi Police have arrested a couple for negligently causing the death of their nine-year-old son. The couple, .. a fisherman, and Elizabeth [his wife], .. were said to have kept their son indoors on the orders of a spiritualist who said the boy was possessed by witchcraft.
The spiritualist, … was alleged to have declared that the boy was possessed by witchcraft and ordered that he should be kept in a room until he died.
Madam Coomson told the Daily Graphic that for some time the boy always complained of excessive heat and ate abnormally, resulting in his body getting swollen
- The Accusers
-Those who suffer calamities.
- Witch doctors and medicine men.
- The unsuccessful, seeking a scapegoat.
- The envious and those who are jealous.
- Co-wives and spouses.
- Close kin and associates.
- Some Pastors & religious people in healing sessions
- The harm due to Witchcraft Beliefs
Witches may be maltreated, ostracised, & even killed
A person’s character is defamed without justification
Pragmatic solutions to problems are not sought, especially where health or business are concerned.
Distrust of kin and associates.
Reluctance to exhibit one’s achievements/talent for fear of arousing suspicion or exposure to attack by witches.
Dangerous ordeals & procedures may be used in the search for the Witch.
Witchcraft marginalises the marginalised.
- Any Positives
- The association of the weak with witchcraft may result in the powerful not abusing the rights of the weak. A president did not build a palace for fear that he would be bewitched;
- The demands of the vulnerable may be attended to, to avoid possibility of bewitchment;
- Promotes an egalitarian society by discouraging the flaunting / obscene display of wealth.
- Promotes psychic healing: some of the cases attributed to w-craft may be psychic in nature and amenable to treatment by witch doctors.