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

One-man churches armed with loudspeakers proliferate in Ghanas fast-growing capital. But as the city goes noisier, occupants are crusading back

” If you disobey the laws of God, the serpent will burn you. Satan will deplete you ,” hollers Apostle Michael Sarfo at a major superhighway intersection in Ghana’s capital, Accra. He proclaims for five hours every weekday morning, with a stack of loudspeakers enlarging his evangelism. Passersby stop to receive prayers and praises, some threshing their coin presents from moving cars.

In Accra, you are never far away from religious sermons. According to one calculate, there are approximately 10 churches per sq km, and open-air advocate, whether on forms of public transport, in bus terminals or at street intersections, is commonplace.

The population of Greater Accra was about 4 million in 2010, but the city’s rapid growth has meant that figure is expected to reach nearly 10 million by 2037. And as local populations increases and the city goes noisier, residents are becoming more willing to fight back- ensuing in a rise 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 heights after people complained. He belief all the persons who complain about the noise are not true Christians.

Apostle Michael Sarfo, who places up at a busy intersection every weekday morning with other pastors and their loudspeakers to spread the gospel. Image: 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 grievances are about faiths. Sovereignties and occupants across Accra point to what are known locally as” one-man churches”- small-minded, independent evangelical churches with no organisational structure- as the biggest offenders. They spring up in backyards, unfinished buildings, under trees and on halls. And despite their small-minded parishes, they often apply loudspeakers and musical instruments during worship.

Noise annoys

For Gifty Gbana, zonal head of the environmental health and sanitation component at La Nkwantanang Madina Municipal Assembly, addressed with racket ailments is taking over her daily work in her small-time, concrete part in the suburbs of Accra.

” Every single day somebody is complaining about interference ,” says Gbana. By her compute, about 65% of her experience is wasted dealing with racket grumbles. Most regularly the complaints are about a church.

Although Gbana’s department attempts to intervene or mediate wherever possible, cases often end up in tribunal. 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 firebrands neighbours’ complaints as “unjustifiable” and a breach of his right to practise his belief. Lambert Kwara, lawyer for the neighbourhood forum, says there has been an increase in noise disorder events over the past six years. On the working day he insists this particular complaint, “hes having” two others to prosecute.

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

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

” Some of the pastors will not take it kindly, some will revile ,” Gbana says. Branding complainants “witches” or “wizards” is a common tactic. In addition, it is not uncommon for Gbana to face pressure to reject examples from well-connected parties in the community.

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

One yearly respite from the racket comes during the month-long forbidding on noise-making be established by leaders in the lead-up to the Homowo harvest festival, when it is common for local magnitude vigilantes to confiscate loudspeakers of recalcitrant noise-makers.

But aside from this annual divulge, the state of interference in Accra is a public health concern, feigning questions straying from increased stress tiers to hearing loss, says Dr Dzidzo Yirenya-Tawiah, an ecological and public health research scientist at the University of Ghana.

She acquires beings are unaware of bylaws on noise-making, or are put over deploring because of anxieties it will affect their reputation or stand in the community.

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

Being tagged as sin or a witch 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 witchcraft you are able to even be punished by civilization .”

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

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

” People have become very interested and aware of the hazard that racket poses, 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 faiths. He personally sees faiths within his organisation to ensure they don’t establish undue racket.” The Bible taught us noise-making- God says we should use instruments ,” he says,” but that doesn’t sacrifice us the opportunity to misuse God’s work .”

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

When religions do not regulate their interference, going to tribunal can take a lot of time and attempt due to Ghana’s notoriously slow legal processes. It took 14 years of tenacity and” indefinable anguish and agony” for two inhabitants in the outskirts of Accra to be awarded injuries in a high court ruling against two noisy neighbouring churches.

The January 2019 decree laid out a saga of complaints, notes, rallies and failed territory tribunal action, as well as a audacious re-zoning by local authorities of one of the church dimensions to allow it to continue to hold business despite the complaints.

The ruling acquired both churches in breach of building rules and regulations. They were fined for generating a nuisance, and the municipal chief executive was penalty” for reckless disdain” of the two residents’ rights to” quiet enjoyment of their belongings “.

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

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

The noise stirs Isaac feel like a bad leader and spouse, he says in the living room of the smaller one-bedroom plain 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 simply began to complain when his son was endure in early 2018.

” My panic is that my child will have a sounding trouble 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 grumbling, feeling his concern was being passed between local and national business. With his tenancy rental 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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