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Otabil’s Sermon “PRIESTS AND POLITICS”
 
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28-Feb-2016  
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Pastor Mensah Otabil
 
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In a recent article, Dr. Arthur Kobina Kennedy stated that, “Pope John Paul II was, according to historian Paul Johnson, ‘part of the trio that destroyed communism and the evil empire.’ Cardinal Sin of the Philippines helped the people depose two Presidents and enstooled one, Corazon Acquino. Here in Africa, Archbishop Tutu, Reverend Essamuah and Bishop Sarpong, amongst others have been significant political voices in their time. Reverend Martin Luthe King Jnr, from the pulpit, gave voice to the struggle of Blacks across the globe for emancipation. Indeed, some who trained as priests have been significant political leaders. Amongst these were Archbishop Makarrios, Father Jean Betrand Aristide and Kwame Nkrumah...’ The article concludes with these words, “Let the men of God speak. However, let them know that when a headmaster steps on the field to play soccer with the boys, he may be tackled-- fairly.”

Pope Francis, on a trip from Mexico this month called US Presidential aspirant, Donal Trump “un-Christian” because the US politician had put forward the construction of a wall between the US and Mexico to stem the flood of illegal immigrants northwards. Donald Trump shot back describing the pontiff’s words as “disgraceful”.

Though too early to tell, but Mr. Trump could succeed President Obama as the next US President. It is left to be seen what relations the Vatican would have with Washington under a Trump presidency – the Pope drew first blood.

A little known anecdote has it that at the height of his bloody grip on the Soviet Union, during WWII, Marshal Stalin was appealed to by the Pope to respect the human rights of his people. The Marshal’s response was to ask about how many divisions the pope had!

History is replete with conflicts between religious and secular leaders sometimes leading to very undesirable outcomes.

There is an air of déjà vu in this Election Year in Ghana. In the last election, words Pastor Otabil, Overseer of one of the many charismatic churches in Ghana, used in connection with the cost of quality education came to haunt him as education became one of the top issues of that election. He tried vainly to extricate himself from his own words, which were clearly unpalatable to one particular political party.

Pastor Otabil is in the news again, this Election Year. In brief, the pastor in critiquing the governance of his country since independence gave the impression that there is an unwholesome new phenomenon for which the current government is responsible but explains that he is not being political.

When one makes categorical statements on how the affairs of a nation are being managed or mismanaged, when one calls on people to demand a higher stake in governance and even take over the functions of state, it is difficult to see such statements as being apolitical.

The Pastor should have demonstrated his political neutrality by making it clear that the trend he observed applied to all governments since independence. In that case it would have been a genuine critique on a systemic issue and not on the government of the day per se.

The Pastor’s sermon could also have highlighted these major strides made by his country – the country he loves so much.

The Freedom of Worship
This should always be the topmost priority for all Men and Women of God the yardstick of good governance. Ghana enjoys one of the most liberal constitutional provisions on that score and the peace prevailing in the country is partially to do with that. Muslims and Christians and traditional worshipers ply their faiths freely and openly without let or hindrance.

In a recent article, Dr. Arthur Kobina Kennedy stated that, “Pope John Paul II was, according to historian Paul Johnson, ‘part of the trio that destroyed communism and the evil empire.’ Cardinal Sin of the Philippines helped the people depose two Presidents and enstooled one, Corazon Acquino. e Pastor has a mega church in the nation’s capital with branches throughout the country whose independence is fully protected.

Socioeconomic development
*What percentage of schools and universities are state owned today compared to the past? What percentage of the hospitals, clinics, laboratories and other health facilities are state owned?
*In business, the private sector has expanded phenomenally and resulted in the progressive shrinkage of the state’s role in manufacturing, housing, construction, banking and financial services, insurance, road transport, aviation.

*In critical areas like security, private security services have narrowed the space by taking over places where the state police were visible.
*From the days of state-owned GNTC, Food Distribution Corporation, Meat Marketing Board, and the like, which dominated commodity distribution by the state we are now seeing the highest proliferation of shopping malls and shopping centers, signalling the total exclusion of the state from merchandise distribution.

*Even in the highly strategic sector of electricity provision, it is not only the state that is providing the electricity now, it's role of 100% in the past has reduced and will continue to reduce as more private investors get on board. In essentials like water, every drop of treated water one drank only a few decades ago, had to come through the taps of Ghana Water and Sewerage Corporation, now Ghana Water Company.

The distribution of water by bottled and sachet (Pure) water busineses has reduced dependence on the water company. *Telecommunications. Not too long ago, one could not make international phone calls without going to the state owned Post Office to book a call and wait to be connected. P&T dominated communication lives. Today, beyond the regulatory control function, ICT is largely in private hands.


Education.
Pastor Otabil’s Central University College is one of the top private institutions of higher learning in Ghana. It sets its own curriculum and charges economical fees to keep the institution afloat to be able to hire quality professionals. In this context, any reason for any blame game?

The Media and civil society
One of the crucial pillars of our Democracy is the media. Ghanaian Governments since the promulgation of the 1992 Constitution have by and large kept faith with Chapter 12, Article 162 of the Constitution and today Ghana is regarded as one of the bastions of the Freedom of Expression in Africa and the world.

This has given rise to the proliferation of many Civil Society Organizations which are regularly checking and balancing the government on all manner of issues regarding the governance of the country.

Pastoral Duty
One could go on and on by providing more insights to substantiate the transformations that have taken place in Ghana and continue to. In an age in which the state can almost be accused of being too aloof and absent in the lives of people compared to the past when even the prices of tins of milk, sardines etc., were fixed by the state and announced in the national budget, the state is seen to be too intrusive in socioeconomic life.

This is why the pastor's views would be more relevant if it were not restricted to the present day. When men of religion admonish the nation for lapses and exhort rulers to adhere to the right path without creating the impression that it is the leaders of a particular government’s time that are meant, they may be seen to be performing a pastoral duty of providing general guidance for all citizens and for all time.


This article will conclude with Dr. Kobina Arthur Kennedy’s words quoted above: “Let the men of God speak. However, let them know that when a headmaster steps on the field to play soccer with the boys, he may be tackled-- fairly.”
 
 
 
 
 

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