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Religious leaders must speak to propel national development

I sat in Church in the past two Sundays to a rare homily, a sermon that zoomed in on the wayward citizen. The Priest drilled down the message to the national reality. As a concerned citizen, contemplating on how best anyone can spur national development, I took particular interest in this Homily.

The Priest quoted the readings from Kings, the Gospel of Mathew, Romans, etc., and he found purpose in making that delivery relate to the national circumstance of corruption, indiscipline, poverty, disregard for country etc. Particularly, the double edged hypocritical character of the typical Ghanaian christian and all the others too. The Homily related to instances about the pilfering in our work places; the bribes before service culture, the abuse of office etc., and yet from Monday to Sunday we are seen in sanctuaries of all sorts, to worship and pretend righteousness. And for those of us seating in the Ss. Thomas More &John Fisher Catholic Church, the Priest was more succinct that, our roles in all these inequities against God and State don’t endear the Church.

So I asked the question again, has religiosity outlived its usefulness in Ghana? I know there are very less religious countries around the world that are kind, trustful and even perhaps happier than we are in Ghana.  The question is, why have we not been able to harness our enormous propensity for religion to propel our country to the development we crave? After all, religion is supposed to influence our culture positively for a better life. Religion, nevertheless has done a lot in Ghana, especially in the area of given distress people a place to vent and heal. However, culturally, I doubt if religion has made much positive impact.

There is ample evidence that trustful societies are happier and achieve greater development overall. Trust is a religious value too, that doesn’t come easy but when attained, societies improve positively. If our Religiosity was to be a catalyst for such a feat, why are we still in this state upon all the years of practising it? Perhaps it is time to shift once more from the deafening messages of prosperity to the core message of righteousness, like the Priest did in my Church. We have seen our society grown rather vast apart in wealth and even in solidarity in the face of a huge and growing religiosity. The country and the wider society have become second in all we do to prosper even in our churches and worship places. However, as I have come to know, religion must not only be practice in anticipation of paradise alone, but must be a national value and a source of good deeds and development. The sermon of the Priest, zeroing in on our unchristian lifestyles was poignant and perhaps most other preachers will realise that the overly preached prosperity message may never yield fruits in the lives of the people, if we don’t become a righteous nation first and foremost.

Being righteous must not only be about how well one sings and reads the Sunday verses or how well one prays near the pulpit, but how one practice the good words in their daily lives, especially for country. Has it not been the case that we are always second guessing each other in Ghana? That, we must not be the ones to wait the other at the meeting? That, we deserve to be in front of that queue? That, we must triple the price, just in case? That, we must gain something from that public service we must render freely?” This list goes on and on and that’s how we distrust and cheat ourselves even as we proclaim religiosity in Ghana.

Alan Greenspan, the longest serving Chair of the US Federal reserved and considered to have wielded more power than any President he served, said in 2009 about the US society, “in a free society governed by the rights and responsibility of its citizens, the vast majority of transactions must be voluntary, which, of necessity, presupposes trust in the words of those with whom we do business- in almost all cases, strangers. It is remarkable that, large numbers of contracts, especially in financial markets are initially oral, confirmed by a written document only at a later time, even after much price movements. It is remarkable how much trust we have in the pharmacists who fill the prescription ordered by our physician. Or the trust we grant to automakers that their motor vehicles will run as certified”. Greenspan was referring to the drivers of the US economy and stressed trust and the goodwill of the US Citizens as that which allowed the US to prosper. Trust allows people to depend on each other unhindered and as a result spurs inclusive development.

Many Ghanaians have become accustomed to the exploits of Paul Kigame and Rwanda. This has almost assumed a paradoxical question with some asking how did a country ruled in dictatorship able to achieve such a development feat after all that country went through, while democratic countries such a Ghana, Kenyan and the likes still struggle, comparatively. But underneath what Paul Kigame may have achieved, there lies the lesson, which eludes many pundits in the development field. And I dare say, the singular thing Kigame did right was his ability to instil discipline and trust back into the Rwanda society. That alone is spurring the enviable development; it underlines respect and common purpose in that country etc. In my small observation too, no system of Government or ideology, I think can guarantee development, unless that system be it autocratic, democratic or whatever, ensures a certain behavioural pattern of its people. In this case, it is trust and discipline amongst the citizenry. Like Greenspan observed, you don’t want people to engage in an endless stream of second guessing each other all the time, like we do in Ghana. That meeting is never held on time because no one trusts the other to be there on time; the contract is never be delivered to expectation; that service will never be delivered as promised; that leader is never ashamed of his/her failure; that minister doesn’t feel the moral obligation to be honest and when it’s like this, no amount of effort will yield a unison development outcome.

Therefore, for us in Ghana, if our religiosity cannot engineer that cultural change to make us more trustful to each other, then one may be right to doubt the gains from our enormously displayed religiosity.It is an indictment and hypocritical on us to always parade two edged deceitful lifestyles in our national and development quest.

Let our religious leaders rise up and show the way this time, at least making the national waywardness an issue on their pulpits too. Maybe our development can begin there, a humble call!

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