Ghana is a post colonial country situated in Africa that embraces diverse ethnic group, religious concepts, beliefs, and languages, greatly affected by European influence. As in most African countries “religion is inseparable from virtually every aspect of Ghanaian life and is important in the determination of worldview” (Salm and Falola 33). Religion still plays a major role in the country and greatly influences social, cultural, political and economic development. Moreover, it defines spiritual relations between local groups and the whole population of the country.
In this paper I’m going to concentrate on the religions that reign in Ghana, to highlight the most influential religions and try to trace how traditional religious concepts may affect business and economics of the country.
First, I believe it is reasonable to provide the definition of the religion. A religion is “a particular set of beliefs and all the ceremonies and duties that are related to it, a belief in one or more gods” (De Vries 21). Religion includes also sects, small groupings and alternative beliefs. According to the latest surveys, many different religions coexist in Ghana, namely, Christianity, Muslim, various indigenous beliefs and Independent African churches (Addo 47). Christianity includes Protestants, Roman Catholic, and Presbyterians. Notably, people who don’t support any religion are very rare in Ghana. Thus, we may say that Ghana is very religious country.
It’s worth mentioning that despite the variety of religions that exist in Ghana there’s no hostility between followers of different beliefs. Indeed, people are very tolerant to the adherents of the opposite party. More than that, there exists the constitutional law that guarantees the freedom of religious expression (Salm and Falola 33). Ranking religion very high Ghanaians observe all the traditions which leads to a very interesting situation in the country when Christian traditions of celebrating Easter and Christmas, Islamic holidays Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting are interconnected and subsist peacefully. Some of them are even regarded as national holidays (Salm and Falola 33) during which all business are closed and few enterprises continue to work.
Now I’d like to take a closer look at Christianity in Ghana, its role, influence and importance. It is generally accepted that the prevailing number of Christian followers live in the southern part of Ghana. This factor can be accounted by the fact that the Christian missionaries that, actually, brought this religion to the African continent settled at that part of the country and founded the Christian church, consequently, “beginning their conversion in the coastal area” (Salm and Falola 54). The arriving of the missionaries is dated back to the fifteens century. Christian missionaries opened religion-oriented schools and spread education throughout the country which greatly affected social development of the country.
It’s noteworthy that different regions profess different Christian churches. In the Volta Region prevail evangelical Presbyterians, Akwapim practice Presbyterian beliefs; the Fante confess Methodist and the Roman Catholic Church is highly spread in Central Region (Addo 67). However, there exists “the unifying organization of Christians, namely, the Ghana Christian Council, founded in 1929” that represents all the Christian Churches and coordinates the relations between the churches and serves as the main institution dealing with religion affairs (Salm and Falola 44).
Another feature of Christian religion I’d like to concentrate on is its influence over political and business issue of the country. The Church in Ghana often intervenes with government decisions, has the right to support or oppose them. To illustrate this assumption it’s necessary to provide the accident of 1991 when “both the Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Ghana Christian Council called on the military government to return the country to constitutional rule” (Salm and Falola 43). The viewpoints of the church often appear in the newspapers, which, as it is generally known, considerably influence the shaping of public opinion. The latest example is the article published by Ghana News Agency that claims that “Eastern Regional Minister appealed to the Presbyterian Church of Ghana to partner government to o provide infrastructure for fresh students” and so “influence the traditional leaders to do what is right before God as it was in the Biblical days” (“Presbyterian Church Urged to Support Government”). This article testifies that the Christian Church in Ghana not only hasn’t lost its influence over people and the government but strengthened its hand over time. The fact that the number of Christian followers has greatly increased to 60% over the last decades also gives evidence to it (De Vries 103).
Now let’s turn to another religion that occupies a great territory of Ghana – Islam. Since the Christian Church dominates on the southern coast, it is natural that on the northern coast reigns Islam. The spread of Islam in Ghana dates back to the ninth century when the trade between neighboring Muslim territories became the main business activity. Gradually Islam was firmly implemented into Ghanaian society. However, Islam appears to be less attractive to Ghanaians and the number of Islam adherents is much fewer than Christian.
Similar to the Christian Church, Ghanaian Muslims profess various variant of Islam. The most widespread followers of Islam are Sunni, the Ahmadiyah, a non-Sunni order, is also presented (De Vries 564). Notably, Islam is widely spread in cities and less popular in the rural areas. Besides, Ghanaian Muslims are divided into three groups including followers of different age, social status and sect. The first group is formed by affluent educated people, mostly businessmen. The second group embraces young people, “who have migrated from the rural areas to the city in search of economic success” (Salm and Falola 52). The second group is also considered to be the largest one. The third group embraces radical Shiite-inspired adherents of Muslim who claim a great role for Islamic religion. All Muslims believe and follow the word of God brought to them by Prophet Mohammed and treat it as a universal law. It is considered that Islamic beliefs are more easily connected with indigenous beliefs of Ghanaians.
Muslims also have the unifying institution, the Muslim Representative council, that “manages religious, social and economic conflicts” (Salm and Falola 54). Islamic leader aim at spreading education throughout the country and try to increase the number of students. The increasing number of well-educated people allows the country to develop its economic relations with other countries and open new opportunities to business and support the new generation of economic and social elite.
The third religion and the oldest one is a set of indigenous Ghanaians beliefs. The Ghanaian religious tradition presupposes the existence of a supreme god the Akan or the Ewe that is associated only with the spiritual life. The Ghanaian beliefs also imply different small gods that live in trees, rivers, mountains and serve as connectors between people and the Akan. In addition, the Ghanaians honor ancestors and other spirits. More than that, the spirits of ancestors are regarded as a family keeper (Salm and Falola 35). The Ghanaians make no difference between the spiritual and real world; the religious beliefs are rooted into day-to-day routine and define the living of every person. Thus, it is forbidden to offend spirits and gods as it can affect badly one’s family and prosperity. Alongside this, to prevent misfortunes, the chiefs within all social institutions are appointed: the chief of the state, family elders, clergy, who keep the balance between the two worlds.
Concluding I’d like to say that Ghana is a good example of the country that successfully embodies different religious beliefs, maintain the balance between both diverse religions and social life, and highly affectively manages to implement religious laws into economic and political life.
Addo, Ebenezer O. Kwame Nkrumah. A Case Study of Religion and Politics in Ghana. Maryland: University Press of America, 1997.
De Vries, Hent. Religion: Beyond a Concept. Fordham University Press, 2008.
“Presbyterian Church Urged to Support Government”. GNA. 2010. Web.
Salm, Steven and Falola, Toyin. Culture and Customs of Ghana. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002.