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‘ If you grumble they see you as evil ‘: Accra’s religious racket difficulty

One-man faiths armed with loudspeakers proliferate in Ghanas fast-growing capital. But as the city get noisier, residents are fighting back

” If you flout the laws of God, the serpent will bite you. Satan will exhaust you ,” outcries Apostle Michael Sarfo at a major road intersection in Ghana’s capital, Accra. He urges for five hours every weekday morning, with a stack of loudspeakers amplifying his evangelism. Passersby stop to receive devotions and praises, some flinging their money gives from moving cars.

In Accra, you are never far away from religious sermons. Harmonizing to one reckon, there are approximately 10 faiths per sq km, and open-air preaching, whether on public transport, in bus terminals or at road intersections, is commonplace.

The population of Greater Accra was about 4 million in 2010, but the city’s rapid growth means that numeral is expected to reach nearly 10 million by 2037. And as the population increases and the city goes noisier, occupants are becoming more willing to fight back- ensuing in an increase in racket 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 tiers after beings grumbled. He speculates those who complain about the noise are not true Christians.

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

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

While he considers his roadside preaching a faith, he says he eventually wants to take it indoors into his own space.

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

Noise annoys

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

” Every single epoch somebody is complaints about noise ,” says Gbana. By her computation, about 65% of her hour is expended addressed with interference grievances. Most routinely 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 occurrence involves a church that would certainly been set up inside a family home in a new development on the city’s outskirts.

The pastor says his faith was simply a fellowship of his family members and brands neighbours’ complaints as “unjustifiable” and a breach of his right to practise his religion. Lambert Kwara, prosecutor for the neighbourhood assembly, says there has been an increase in interference grumble instances over the past six years. On the working day he indicates this specific grumble, “hes having” two others to prosecute.

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

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

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

But Gbana is resolute that peace( and quiet) must dominate- although she is cognizant of the fact that systems need to be streamlined and agencies need to work with each other better to be truly effective.

One yearly respite from the noise comes during the month-long censor on noise-making imposed by directors in the lead-up to the Homowo harvest festival, when it is common for neighbourhood capacity vigilantes to hijack loudspeakers of recalcitrant noise-makers.

But aside from this annual disintegrate, the government of interference in Accra is a public health concern, affecting problems ranging from increased stress levels to hearing loss, says Dr Dzidzo Yirenya-Tawiah, an environmental and public health research scientist at the University of Ghana.

She procures parties are unaware of bylaws on noise-making, or are put over grumbling because of frights it will affect their reputation or stand in the community.

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

Being labelled as immorality or a sorceres or wizard can be a serious revile, 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 magic you can even be punished by civilization .”

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

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

” People have become very interested and aware of the chance that racket constitutes, so now the 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 visits churches within his organisation to ensure they don’t constitute excessive interference.” The Bible taught us noise-making- God says we should use instruments ,” he says,” but that doesn’t contribute us the opportunity to mistreatment God’s work .”

There are some religions taking preemptive appraises, such as the Tesano Baptist church, which has invested over its first year in brand-new material and changed its interior design in order to reduce noise levels. Members of the congregation had complained about too-loud works, says head Kenneth Palme.” Loud sound doesn’t necessarily mean good resonate ,” he says.

When faiths do not regulate their racket, going to see tribunal can take a lot of time and endeavor due to Ghana’s notoriously slow legal processes. It took 14 years of tenacity and” indescribable anguish and woe” for two residents in the suburbs of Accra to be awarded impairs in a high court ruling against two noisy neighbouring churches.

The January 2019 rule laid down by a tale of complaints, notes, gratifies and neglected region courtroom activity, as well as a brazen re-zoning by local authorities of one of the church owneds to allow it to continue to hold services despite the complaints.

The ruling felt both religions in breach of structure rules and regulations. They were fined for causing a nuisance, and the municipal chief executive was fined” for negligent neglect” of the two residents’ rights to” quiet gratification of their dimensions “.

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

Such bureaucracy was what stopped Isaac from following through on his ailments to local authorities- about a clergyman who appears intent on saving on with his urging regardless of the complaints.

The noise stimulates Isaac feel like a bad father-god and husband, he says in the living room of the smaller one-bedroom flat he rents in a family house in Madina.

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

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

” My anxiety is that my babe will have a hearing trouble in the future …[ but] when you grumble they see you as evil ,” says Isaac, who is himself a Christian.

After reporting the matter to the EPA, he gave up complaining, feeling its deep concern was being delivered between local and national business. With his tenancy lease culminating in April, he and his family are weighing down the weeks until they move out.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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