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‘ If you deplore they see you as evil ‘: Accra’s religious interference difficulty

One-man faiths forearmed with loudspeakers proliferate in Ghanas fast-growing capital. But as the city gets noisier, occupants are opposing back

” If you flout the laws of God, the serpent will bite you. Satan will exhaust you ,” shouts Apostle Michael Sarfo at a major street intersection in Ghana’s capital, Accra. He preaches for five hours every weekday morning, with a stack of loudspeakers enlarging his evangelism. Passersby stop to receive prayers and approvals, some convulsing their money provides from moving cars.

In Accra, you are never far away from religious speeches. According to one approximation, there are approximately 10 religions per sq km, and open-air evangelism, whether on forms of public transport, in bus terminals or at superhighway intersections, is commonplace.

The population of Greater Accra was about 4 million in 2010, but the city’s rapid growth has meant that quantity is expected to reach nearly 10 million by 2037. And as the population increases and the city get noisier, tenants are becoming more willing to fight back- developing in a rise in interference complaints.

Sarfo has been preaching at this intersection with his speaker system for the past four years. He says he used to be a lot louder but lowered his heights after people deplored. He feels all the persons who complain about the noise are not true Christians.

Apostle
Apostle Michael Sarfo, who gives up at a busy intersection every weekday morning with other pastors and their loudspeakers to spread the gospel. Photograph: Stacey Knott

” Not everybody will like what we are doing here- not all know Christ ,” he says.” That is why “were here” .”

While he considers his roadside preaching a religion, he says he eventually am willing to take it indoors into his own space.

According to the city’s Environmental Protection Agency( EPA ), about 70% of noise disorders are about religions. Permissions and inhabitants across Accra point to what are known locally as” one-man faiths”- small-time, independent evangelical religions with no organisational structure- as the biggest offenders. They spring up in backyards, unfinished structures, under trees and on halls. And despite their small gatherings, they often apply loudspeakers and musical instruments during worship.

Noise annoys

For Gifty Gbana, zonal is chairman of the environmental health and sanitation force at La Nkwantanang Madina Municipal Assembly, dealing with racket complaints is taking over her daily work in her small-scale, concrete office in the outskirts of Accra.

” Every single daytime somebody is complaints about interference ,” says Gbana. By her calculation, about 65% of her meter is invested dealing with racket objections. Most regularly the complaints are about a church.

Although Gbana’s department attempts to intervene or liaise wherever possible, cases often end up in courtroom. One such subject involves a faith that would certainly been set up inside a family home in a new development on the city’s outskirts.

The pastor says his religion was simply a fellowship of his family members and labels neighbours’ complaints as “unjustifiable” and an infringement of his right to practise his religion. Lambert Kwara, lawyer for the local meeting, says there has been an increase in racket grumble suits over the past six years. On the working day he bickers this particular objection, he has two others to prosecute.

Gbana is often on the frontline in these cases. She says things can quickly turn ugly when she acts notices.

Members
Members of the Tesano Baptist church at a Sunday service. The religion has invested in new material and accommodated its interior design to shorten noise levels. Picture: Stacey Knott

” Some of the pastors will not take it kindly, some will insult ,” Gbana says. Branding complainants “witches” or “wizards” is a common tactic. In additive, it is not unusual for Gbana to face pressure to dismiss examples from well-connected beings in the community.

But Gbana is resolute that peace( and quiet) must persist- although she is cognizant of the fact that structures need to be streamlined and agencies need to work with one another better to be truly effective.

One yearly respite from the racket comes during the course of its month-long disallow on noise-making be established by managers in the lead-up to the Homowo harvest festival, when it is common for local capacity vigilantes to hijack loudspeakers of recalcitrant noise-makers.

But aside from this annual breach, the position of interference in Accra is a public health concern, feigning problems straddling from increased stress grades to discovering loss, says Dr Dzidzo Yirenya-Tawiah, an environmental and public health experiment scientist at the University of Ghana.

She feels beings are unaware of bylaws on noise-making, or are put over grumbling because of frights it will affect their honour or standing in the community.

” You may end up being labelled as having an evil force ,” Yirenya-Tawiah says.

Being tagged as evil or a sorceres or wizard can be a serious offend, says Dr Cyril Fayose, general secretary of the Christian Council of Ghana.” Witchcraft accusations are very serious matters in Africa ,” he says,” and sometimes if you are sees as doing sorcery you can even be punished by society .”

In August last year, religious leaders, local and national government officials made a taskforce to fighting to Accra’s increasing noise levels, concentrate on education and enforcement.

Gifty
Gifty Gbana, zonal is chairman of the environmental health and sanitation gang at La Nkwantanang Madina Municipal Assembly, Accra. Picture: Stacey Knott

” People have become very interested and aware of the hazard that interference constitutes, so now the number of complaints are coming ,” says John Tettey, a taskforce member and head of the education department at the EPA.

Samuel Teye Doku was at the August taskforce meeting representing independent religions. He personally sees religions within his organisation to ensure they don’t realise undue interference.” The Bible taught us noise-making- God says we should use instruments ,” he says,” but that doesn’t open us the opportunity to misuse God’s work .”

There are some churches taking preemptive bars, such as the Tesano Baptist church, which has invested over the years in new material and changed its interior design in order to reduce noise levels. Members of the gathering had complained about too-loud services, says head Kenneth Palme.” Loud sound doesn’t necessarily mean good audio ,” he says.

When churches do not govern their racket, going to see court can take a lot of time and attempt due to Ghana’s notoriously slow legal processes. It took 14 years of tenacity and” unspeakable pain and suffering” for two residents in the suburbs of Accra to be awarded shatterings in a high court ruling against two noisy neighbouring churches.

The January 2019 verdict laid down by a story of complaints, notes, meetings and neglected district courtroom activity, as well as a brazen-faced re-zoning by local authorities of one of the church properties to allow it to continue to hold services despite the complaints.

The ruling find both faiths in breach of construct rules and regulations. They were fined for stimulating a nuisance, and the municipal chief executive was penalty” for reckless disregard” of the two residents’ rights to” quiet happiness of their owneds “.

‘My fear is my baby will have a hearing problem’

Such bureaucracy was what stopped Isaac from following through on his complaints to local authorities- about a rector who appears intent on deterring on with his preaching regardless of the complaints.

The noise obliges Isaac feel like a bad papa and partner, he says in the living room of the smaller one-bedroom plain he hires in a family house in Madina.

When he moved in, in mid-2 016, he saw no problem with the smaller prayer work held by his neighbour. However, since then, he says his neighbour has started deeming very loud church services, screaming into a microphone in the evenings along with 10 worshippers.

Isaac only began to complain when his son was abide in early 2018.

” My dread is that my child will have a sounding difficulty in the future …[ but] when you complain they see you as evil ,” says Isaac, who is himself a Christian.

After reporting the matter to the EPA, he gave up complaining, feeling his concern was being extended between local and national organizations. With his tenancy rental culminating in April, he and members of their families are counting down the weeks until they move out.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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