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

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

” If you flout the laws of God, the serpent will burn you. Satan will eat you ,” wails Apostle Michael Sarfo at a major superhighway intersection in Ghana’s capital, Accra. He urges for five hours every weekday morning, with a load of loudspeakers amplifying his evangelism. Passersby stop to receive devotions and blessings, some threshing their fund provides from moving cars.

In Accra, you are never far from religious sermons. According to one estimation, there are approximately 10 churches per sq km, and open-air sermon, 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 number is expected to reach nearly 10 million by 2037. And as the population increases and the city gets noisier, inhabitants are becoming more willing to fight back- arising 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 parties grumbled. He speculates those who complain about the noise are not true Christians.

Apostle Michael Sarfo, who gives up at a busy intersection every weekday morning with other clergymen 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 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 racket disorders are about religions. Dominions and inhabitants across Accra point to what are known locally as” one-man churches”- small-scale, independent evangelical faiths with no organizational structure- as the biggest sinners. They spring up in backyards, unfinished structures, under trees and on porches. And despite their small-time gatherings, they often employment 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 objections is taking over her daily work in her tiny, concrete bureau in the suburbs of Accra.

” Every single daytime somebody is complaining about interference ,” says Gbana. By her think, about 65% of her time is invested addressed with racket 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 example involves a religion 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 companionship 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 meeting, says there has increased during racket ailment lawsuits over the past six years. On the day he reasons this particular grievance, he has two others to prosecute.

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

Members of the Tesano Baptist church at a Sunday service. The faith 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 revile ,” Gbana says. Branding complainants “witches” or “wizards” is a common tactic. In add-on, it is not unique for Gbana to face pressure to reject instances from well-connected parties in the community.

But Gbana is resolute that peace( and quiet) must predominate- although she is cognizant of the fact that plans 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 forbid on noise-making be established by boss in the lead-up to the Homowo harvest festival, when it is common for local publication vigilantes to impound loudspeakers of recalcitrant noise-makers.

But aside from this annual interrupt, the government of racket in Accra is a public health concern, feigning concerns arraying from increased stress stages to sounding loss, says Dr Dzidzo Yirenya-Tawiah, an ecological and public health research scientist at the University of Ghana.

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

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

Being tagged as immorality or a voodoo 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 magic you are able to even be punished by civilization .”

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

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

” People have become very interested and aware of the chance 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 faiths. He personally sees churches within his organisation to ensure they don’t build 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 mistreatment God’s work .”

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

When faiths do not govern their noise, going to court can take a lot of time and exertion due to Ghana’s notoriously slow legal processes. It took 14 years of tenacity and” unspeakable agony and bear” for two occupants in the outskirts of Accra to be awarded impairments in a high court ruling against two boisterous neighbouring churches.

The January 2019 rule laid down by a story of complaints, notes, sees and neglected region courtroom action, as well as a impudent re-zoning by local authorities of one of the church owneds to allow it to continue to hold business despite the complaints.

The ruling determined both religions in breach of construct rules and regulations. They were penalty for stimulating a nuisance, and the municipal chief executive was fined” for negligent dismis” of the two residents’ rights to” quiet enjoyment of their owneds “.

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

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

The noise forms Isaac feel like a bad leader and husband, he says in the living room of the smaller one-bedroom plain he rents in their own families house in Madina.

When he moved in, in mid-2 016, he saw no problem with the small devotion busines held by his neighbour. Nonetheless, since then, he says his neighbour has started holding very loud church services, screaming into a microphone in the evenings along with 10 worshippers.

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

” My horror is that my child will have a hearing difficulty in the future …[ but] when you deplore 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 extended between local and national organizations. With his tenancy rental culminating in April, he and his family are counting down the weeks until they move out.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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