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

One-man religions armed with loudspeakers proliferate in Ghanas fast-growing capital. But as the city goes noisier, residents are opposing back

” If you flout the laws of God, the serpent will bite you. Satan will consume you ,” calls Apostle Michael Sarfo at a major superhighway intersection in Ghana’s capital, Accra. He urges for five hours every weekday morning, with a stack of orators amplifying his evangelism. Passersby stop to receive devotions and boons, some flinging their coin offerings from moving cars.

In Accra, you are never far away from religious speeches. According to one appraisal, there are approximately 10 faiths per sq km, and open-air proclaim, 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 means that number is expected to reach nearly 10 million by 2037. And as local populations increases and the city get noisier, tenants are becoming more willing to fight back- arising 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 ranks after beings deplored. He accepts all the persons who complain about the racket 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 gospel. Image: 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 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 objections are about churches. Sovereignties and inhabitants across Accra point to what are known locally as” one-man religions”- small-minded, independent evangelical religions with no organizational structure- as the most difficult crooks. They spring up in backyards, unfinished buildings, under trees and on foyers. And despite their small flocks, they often use loudspeakers and musical instruments during worship.

Noise annoys

For Gifty Gbana, zonal head of the environmental health and sanitation force at La Nkwantanang Madina Municipal Assembly, addressed with noise objections is taking over her daily work in her tiny, concrete part in the outskirts of Accra.

” Every single era somebody is complaining about interference ,” says Gbana. By her reckoning, about 65% of her hour is invested addressed with noise ailments. Most regularly the complaints are about a church.

Although Gbana’s department attempts to intervene or intercede wherever possible, cases often end up in tribunal. One such case involves a church that would certainly been set up inside their own families home in a new development on the city’s outskirts.

The pastor says his faith was simply a fellowship of his family members and labels neighbours’ complaints as “unjustifiable” and a breach of his right to practise his religion. Lambert Kwara, lawyer for the local assembly, says there has increased during noise disorder suits over the past six years. On the day he argues this specific objection, “hes having” two others to prosecute.

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

Members of the Tesano Baptist church at a Sunday service. The faith has invested in new paraphernalium and accommodated its interior design to reduce 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 addition, it is not unique for Gbana to face pressure to reject instances from well-connected people in the community.

But Gbana is resolute that peace( and quiet) must persist- although she admits that systems 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 directors in the lead-up to the Homowo harvest festival, when it is common for neighbourhood volume vigilantes to hijack loudspeakers of recalcitrant noise-makers.

But aside from this annual crack, the nation of racket in Accra is a public health concern, affecting editions ranging from increased stress stages to hearing loss, says Dr Dzidzo Yirenya-Tawiah, an ecological and public health research scientist at the University of Ghana.

She sees people are unaware of bylaws on noise-making, or are put over grumbling because of dreads 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 evil 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 il” sees as doing sorcery you can even be punished by society .”

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

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

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

There are some faiths 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 parish had complained about too-loud services, says executive Kenneth Palme.” Loud sound doesn’t necessarily mean good music ,” he says.

When religions do not govern their noise, going to courtroom can take a lot of time and endeavour due to Ghana’s notoriously slow legal processes. It took 14 years of tenacity and” indescribable sorenes and suffering” for two inhabitants in the suburbs of Accra to be awarded shatters in a high court ruling against two boisterous neighbouring churches.

The January 2019 verdict laid out a story of complaints, words, fits and failed district tribunal activity, as well as a shameless re-zoning by local authorities of one of the church owneds to allow it to continue to hold assistances despite the complaints.

The ruling noted both churches in breach of structure rules and regulations. They were fined for stimulating a nuisance, and the municipal chief executive was fined” for foolhardy ignore” of the two residents’ rights to” quiet delight of their belongings “.

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

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

The noise constructs Isaac feel like a bad leader and spouse, he says in the front room of the smaller one-bedroom flat he leases in a family house in Madina.

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

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

” My fear is that my newborn will have a discovering 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 its deep concern was being guided between local and national organizations. With his tenancy rental culminating in April, he and members of their families are weighing down the weeks until they move out.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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