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‘ If you grumble they see you as evil ‘: Accra’s religious interference trouble

The population of Greater Accra was about 4 million in 2010, but the city’s rapid growth means that number is expected to reach nearly 10 million by 2037. And as the population grows and the city gets noisier, residents are becoming more willing to fight back- ensuing in a rise in noise 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 stages after beings grumbled. He accepts those who complain about the racket are not true Christians.

Apostle
Apostle Michael Sarfo, who moves up at a busy intersection every weekday morning with other pastors and their loudspeakers to spread the truth. Photograph: 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 church, 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 disorders are about faiths. Powers and inhabitants across Accra point to what are known locally as” one-man religions”- small-scale, independent evangelical religions with no organizational structures- as the most prominent convicts. They spring up in backyards, unfinished structures, under trees and on porches. And despite their small-scale flocks, they often use loudspeakers and musical instruments during worship.

Noise annoys

For Gifty Gbana, zonal head of the environmental health and sanitation unit at La Nkwantanang Madina Municipal Assembly, dealing with noise disorders is taking over her daily work in her small-scale, concrete agency in the outskirts of Accra.

” Every single day somebody is complaining about noise ,” says Gbana. By her calculate, about 65% of her time is invested dealing with noise disorders. Most frequently the complaints are about a church.

Although Gbana’s department attempts to intervene or mediate wherever possible, cases often end up in court. One such case involves a religion that has clearly been set up inside a family home in a new development on the city’s outskirts.

The pastor says his church was simply a companionship of his family members and firebrands 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 noise complaint clients over the past six years. On the day he insists this particular complaint, he has two others to prosecute.

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

Members

But aside from this annual break, the district of noise in Accra is a public health concern, altering editions wandering from increased stress ranks to hearing loss, says Dr Dzidzo Yirenya-Tawiah, an ecological and public health research scientist at the University of Ghana.

She spots parties are unaware of bylaws on noise-making, or are put over complaining because of horrors it will affect their honour or standing in the community.

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

Being tagged as evil or a sorceres or wizard can be a serious insult, 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 seen as doing sorcery you can even be punished by society .”

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

Gifty
Gifty Gbana, zonal head of the environmental health and sanitation unit at La Nkwantanang Madina Municipal Assembly, Accra. Photograph: Stacey Knott

” People have become very interested and is conscious of the threat that noise poses, 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 paraphernalium and accommodated its interior design in order to reduce noise levels. Members of the parish had complained about too-loud business, says head Kenneth Palme.” Loud sound doesn’t necessarily mean good reverberate ,” he says.

When churches do not regulate their interference, going to court can take a lot of era and attempt due to Ghana’s notoriously slow legal processes. It took 14 years of tenacity and” unspeakable agony and woe” for two inhabitants in the outskirts of Accra to be awarded detriments in a high court ruling against two loud neighbouring churches.

The January 2019 rule laid out a saga of complaints, characters, rallies and flunked district courtroom action, as well as a insolent re-zoning by local authorities of one of the church owneds to allow it to continue to hold assistances despite the complaints.

The ruling observed both religions in breach of building rules and regulations. They were penalty for stimulate a nuisance, and the municipal chief executive was fined” for reckless indifference” of the two residents’ rights to” quiet delight of their dimensions “.

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

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

The noise draws Isaac feel like a bad papa and husband, he says in the front room of the small one-bedroom flat he rents in a family house in Madina.

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

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

” My fright is that my babe will have a hearing problem 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 deploring, feeling his concern was being transferred between local and national bureaux. With his tenancy lease ending in April, he and his family are counting down the weeks until they move out.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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