Just last week – the first week of February, 2016 – I was writing a section of my PhD thesis that provides a brief overview of the socio-economic and political history of Ghana. Writing that section was a very difficult process for me and it was only during church service on the following Sunday that the ‘coin dropped’ for me. I realised that the difficulty in writing that section stemmed not from a want of information or ‘writers block’ but was simply an emotional one. I just could not give any positive narration to certain parts of the history. The immediate post-independence period was one of euphoria and a huge sense of optimism that unfortunately was short-lived. It seems to me that Ghana is often talked of in terms of potential, near misses and that we are constantly on the brink of something spectacular – development wise – that seems to never happen (or when it does happen seem to never happen for the majority of people).
The sermon this past Sunday morning was on Daniel 6. This somehow sent my mind roaming through the 2010 Ghana Population and Housing Census data and the Ghana Living Standards Survey Round 6 (GLSS 6) data that I have been dissecting the past weeks. Most know the story of Daniel and how he ended up in the Lions’ den but came out unscathed. The bit of the story that got me thinking is Daniel 6:3-5 which I quote (emphasis mine) here:
3 Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. 5 Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”
Now Daniel’s was a minority religion in the land where he was serving but he did not go with ‘when in Rome do what the Romans do’ attitude. No, he so distinguished himself in his work that there was no grounds for which others could accuse him when they went searching. His exceptional qualities of diligence and trustworthiness were the direct result of his faith in God and his believe that God calls him to live a life that is trustworthy in his everyday activities even if all around him others are doing the opposite. This is what set him apart and this is how he helped the land prosper even though he was a captive there.
End of preaching
So what does the sermon on Daniel and my PhD thesis writing blues got to do with Ghana Land of My Birth (GLoMB)? Here is where they intersect: according to the main report of the GLSS 6, 73.0% of heads of households in Ghana are Christians with the highest proportion being in Accra (85.6%). Across all of Ghana Christianity is the most dominant (except the Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions) religion. The results of the GLSS 6 which was carried out from 18th October, 2012 to 17th October, 2013 are consistent with the 2010 Population and Housing Census (PHC) data. The 2010 PHC showed that 71.2% of the population in Ghana identifies as being of the Christian faith. Unlike Daniel whose faith was a minority, Christians in Ghana are the majority and thus one can make justifiable assumptions of how things are done in Ghana. Nonetheless, at the same time that 71.2% of the population profess to be Christians, the news is constantly filled with stories about mismanagement, embezzlement, backhand deals and corruption. Are the 71.2% of the population a part of this?
On the basis of the 2010 PHC data it can be safely stated that a majority of administrators, chief executives and civil/public/private sector workers from the office of the President to the office of the household kitchen in rural Nyamebekyere are Christians. Why are we not experiencing the positive attitudes and outcomes one could expect from this majority faith like that of Daniel even when he was in the minority? The late Professor Kojo Wireko-Brobbey, former HOD (Department of Sociology and Social Work) at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology whom I recall with much fondness used to say in Soc 351 class that as a Sociologist he could correctly predict 9/10 the social behaviour of anyone who professes to be a Christian or a Muslim. During my Sociology and Social Work undergraduate days I did not think much of this remark but now I realise no Sociologist can be certain of making 9/10 correct predictions about the contemporary Ghanaian Christian. There is such a mismatch between what Christians profess and what our everyday social behaviour express that you are lucky if you can make a 1/10 correct prediction.
This mismatch between faith and action in the 71.2% of Ghanaians has led many to argue that religion is the bane of development in Ghana. We will happily sing and dance in church on Sunday and listen to uplifting sermons but then on Monday when we get to the office we simply refuse to process the salary papers of the poor guy who has being working for 6 months without pay. We – the 71.2% of Ghanaians who profess to be Christians – simply refuse to do our work unless that poor graduate guy who has gone 6 months or a year of work without pay comes with a brown envelope to grease the wheels. How can we turn around and complain that the economy is not doing well if in the office we are not being trustworthy like Daniel in carrying out the task assigned and for which we are paid every month. Now whether that salary is sufficient or not is another matter but the point is that if we claim to be Christians then like Daniel we should be found not to be corrupt nor negligent in our work.
As I have written before about the socio-ecomini of Ghana and how we are all to blame, I reiterate and refine the point to state that the 71.2% of Ghanaians who profess to be Christians are the ones to blame for the state of the country starting from the office of the President. We are in the majority but we have not set an example of trustworthy, negligence-free, corruption-free behaviour for others to follow. Many have argued that religion is the bane of progress in Ghana (and Africa at large) but I do beg to differ because true religion is this –
James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
This idea of religion is far from what one can say of the 71.2% of Ghanaians who are Christians. If those who profess to be Christian were to live out this simple ‘don’t do what the Romans do’ but love and serve others way of life our communities will be transformed and so will our nation. We need to begin to see consistent exhibition of some of these traits of true religion and examples of little Ghanaian Daniels spread across workplaces in Ghana. A Christian is as a Christian does not as a Christian says or profess. Once this begins to happen we can be sure of seeing positive changes.