Religion in Ghana
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The religious composition of Ghana in the first postindependence population census of 1960 was 12 percent Muslim, 38 percent traditionalist, 41 percent Christian, and the rest (about 9 percent) other. A breakdown of the 1960 population according to Christian sects showed that 25 percent were Protestant (non-Pentecostal); 13 percent, Roman Catholic; 2 percent, Protestant (Pentecostal); and 1 percent, Independent African Churches. The 1970 population census did not present figures on the religious composition of the nation.
The percentage of the general population considered to be Christian rose sharply to 62 percent according to a 1985 estimate. Whereas the Protestant (non-Pentecostal) sector remained at 25 percent, the percentage of Catholics increased to 15 percent. A larger rise, however, was recorded for Protestants (Pentecostals) – 8 percent compared with their 2 percent representation in 1960. From being the smallest Christian sect, with a 1 percent representation among the general population in 1960, membership in the Independent African Churches rose the most – to about 14 percent by 1985. The 1985 estimate showed that the Muslim population of Ghana raised to 26 percent. However, many Muslim organizations disputed these figures. The sector representing traditionalists and non-believers (38 and 9 percent, respectively, in 1960), also dramatically declined by 1985 – to 21 and about 1 percent, respectively.
Religious tolerance in Ghana is very high. The major Christian celebrations of Christmas and Easter are recognized as national holidays. In the past, vacation periods have been planned around these occasions, thus permitting both Christians and others living away from home to visit friends and family in the rural areas. Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, is observed by Muslims in Ghana and important traditional occasions are celebrated. These festivals include the Adae, which occur fortnightly, and the annual Odwira festivals. There is also the annual Apoo festival activities, which is a kind of Mardi Gras and is held in towns across Ghana.
The presence of Christian missionaries on the coast of Ghana has been dated to the arrival of the Portuguese in the fifteenth century. It was the Basel/Presbyterian and Wesleyan/Methodist missionaries, however, who, in the nineteenth century, laid the foundation for the Christian church in Ghana. Beginning their conversions in the coastal area and amongools as "nurseries of the church" in which an educated African class was trained. There are secondary schools today, especially exclusively boys and girls schools, that are mission- or church-related institutions. Church schools have been opened to all since the state assumed financial responsibility for formal instruction under the Education Act of 1960.
Various Christian denominations are represented in Ghana, including Evangelical Presbyterian and Catholicism. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), in addition to chapels, has a temple in Accra, one of only three LDS temples on the African continent.
The unifying organization of Christians in the country is the Ghana Christian Council, founded in 1929. Representing the Methodist, Anglican, Mennonite, Presbyterian, Evangelical Presbyterian, African Methodist Episcopal Zionist, Christian Methodist, Evangelical Lutheran, F'Eden, and Baptist churches, and the Society of Friends, the council serves as the link with the World Council of Churches and other ecumenical bodies.The Seventh-day Adventist Church, not a member of Christian Council has a strong presence in Ghana. The Church opened the premier private and Christian University in Ghana. The National Catholic Secretariat, established in 1960, also coordinates the different in-country dioceses. These Christian organizations, concerned primarily with the spiritual affairs of their congregations, have occasionally acted in circumstances described by the government as political. Such was the case in 1991 when both the Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Ghana Christian Council called on the military government of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) to return the country to constitutional rule. The Roman Catholic newspaper, The Standard, was often critical of government policies.
The rise of Apostolic or Pentecostal churches across the nation partly demonstrates the impact of social change and the eclectic nature of traditional cultures. Some establishments have drum societies and singing groups and the independent African and Pentecostal churches reflected in figures for membership that rose from 1 and 2 percent, respectively, in 1960, to 14 and 8 percent, respectively, according to a 1985 estimate.
Hinduism has been practiced in Ghana since 1947. Hinduism is spread in Ghana actively by Ghana's Hindu Monastery headed by Swami Ghananand Saraswati and Hare Krishnas. Sathya Sai Organisation, Ananda Marga and Brahma Kumaris are also active in Ghana.
In the north, Islam is represented and the spread of Islam into Dagbon, was mainly the result of the commercial activities of North African Muslims. Islam made its entry into the northern territories of modern Ghana around the fifteenth century. Berber traders and clerics carried the religion into the area. Most Muslims in Ghana are Sunni, following Maliki school of jurisprudence. Those following the Maliki version of Islamic law and Sufism, involving the organization of mystical brotherhoods (tariq) for the purification and spread of Islam, is not widespread in Ghana. The Tijaniyah and the Qadiriyah brotherhoods, however, are represented. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a sect originating in nineteenth-century India, is the only non-Sunni order in the country. Despite the spread of Islam in the Middle East and North Africa since the mid-1970s, Muslims and Christians in Ghana have had excellent relations. Guided by the authority of the Muslim Representative Council, religious, social, and economic matters affecting Muslims have often been redressed through negotiations. The Muslim Council has also been responsible for arranging pilgrimages to Mecca for believers who can afford the journey. Nevertheless there remains a gap between Muslims and Christians in Ghana. As society in Ghana modernized, Muslims were blocked from taking part in the modernization process. This is largely because access to jobs required Western education, and this education was only available in missionary schools. Many Muslims feared that sending their children to missionary schools may result in religious conversion.
Despite the presence of Islam and Christianity, traditional religions in Ghana have retained their influence because of their intimate relation to family loyalties and local mores. The traditional cosmology expresses belief in a supreme being referred as Nyame and the supreme being is usually thought of as remote from daily religious life and is, therefore, not directly worshipped. There are also the lesser gods that take "residency" in streams, rivers, trees, and mountains. These gods are generally perceived as intermediaries between the supreme being and society. Ancestors and numerous other spirits are also recognized as part of the cosmological order. The spirit world is considered to be as real as the world of the living. The dual worlds of the mundane and the sacred are linked by a network of mutual relationships and responsibilities. The action of the living, for example, can affect the gods or spirits of the departed, while the support of family ancestors ensures prosperity of the lineage or state. Veneration of departed ancestors is a major characteristic of all traditional religions. The ancestors are believed to be the most immediate link with the spiritual world, and they are thought to be constantly near, observing every thought and action of the living. To ensure that a natural balance is maintained between the world of the sacred and that of the profane, the roles of the family elders in relation to the lineage within society are crucial. The religious functions, especially lineage heads, are clearly demonstrated during such periods as the Odwira, Homowo, or the Aboakyir, that are organized in activities that renew and strengthen relations with ancestors.
Freedom of religion
Although freedom of religion exists in Ghana, a Religious Bodies (Registration) Law 2989 was passed in June 1989 to regulate churches. By requiring certification of all Christian religious organizations operating in Ghana, the government reserved the right to inspect the functioning of these bodies and to order the auditing of their financial statements. The Ghana Council of Churches interpreted the Religious Bodies Law as contradicting the concept of religious freedom in the country. According to a government statement, however, the law was designed to protect the freedom and integrity of genuine religious organizations by exposing and eliminating groups established to take advantage of believers. The PNDC repealed the law in late 1992. Despite its provisions, all orthodox Christian denominations and many spiritual churches continued to operate in the country.
- Owusu-Ansah (1994), "Religion and Society".
- Muslims cry foul over population figures
- Owusu-Ansah (1994), "Christianity and Islam in Ghana".
- Owusu-Ansah (1994), "Traditional Religion".
- Chapter 1: Religious Affiliation retrieved 4 September 2013
- Holger Weiss (2004), "Variations in the Colonial Representation of Islam and Muslims in Northern Ghana, ca. 1900-1930".
- Owusu-Ansah, David. "Society and Its Environment" (and subchapters). A Country Study: Ghana (La Verle Berry, editor). Library of Congress Federal Research Division (November 1994). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain (See About the Country Studies / Area Handbooks Program)