TGIA – Thank God it’s Africa

Jesus is good…all the time
{TGIA is my weekly look at the weird and wonderful things that happen when you’re living in Africa.  Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they’re a little dangerous, sometimes they’re a heady combination of the two. On a continent which faces many challenges, populated with people of extraordinary ingenuity, it makes for some good times. If you’d like to join in please add a link or a comment below}.

Now we are well into 2014 and life seems to be settling into a rhythm in our new home in Accra, I thought’d it time to bring back TGIA.

Living in Ghana has made me realise what a secular society I grew up in in Australia. I imagine it’s because Australia is a land of migrants from many nations, each bringing their own religion into the mix…Christians of many flavours, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs…and Jedi’s. Yep Jedi’s. In 2006, 58,000 Australians affiliated themselves with the Jedi “religion”, making it the 16th largest religious group in Australia.

But jokes aside, religious affiliation in Australia, like many developed countries, has been on a steady decline. In the 2006 census, 18.7% nominated “no religion”, up from 15.5% in 2001. Ghana, on the other hand, reports in 2010  71.2% Christian faith, 17.6% Islam, with traditional and no religion coming in about the same (5.2% and 5.3% respectively). By my calculations, this leaves 0.7% reporting other religious affiliation. I have great respect for the predominant Christian-Islam groups of Ghana to live together in peace, when much of the world is being torn apart by religious conflict.

But these statistics don’t point to the overtly religious nature of a society. While 61% of Australians report an affiliation to Christianity, I am certain that the numbers of regular church going Australians are significantly fewer. And while the average church service in Australia may not even reach an hour, church here is often a multi-hour marathon.  ALL-NIGHT church services are a common weekend event, with thousands congregating in evangelical churches.

I’m not here to debate the pros and cons of religion. I respect it provides a great deal of comfort to millions of people around the world. I also recognise it has also provided a great deal of grief to millions of people around the world. I love that my kids have friends who are Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Jewish, and no religion at all. And I think it’s probably the most effective way to ensure religious tolerance.

Religion is inescapable in Ghana, from ‘Jesus Cares Hair Salon’ to ‘God is Great Carpentry’. From opening meeting prayers, to closing meeting prayers, to school newsletters thanking the big guy, to the standard ‘Thank you’ replaced with ‘God bless you’; it all comes as a bit of a shock to a secular Australian like me.  Like the sign above on the side of the road, advertising nothing, but a gentle reminder, that Jesus was a good guy. Not just sometimes, but ALL THE TIME. Not just on Sundays, not just when he wanted something….but all the time.

Probably not a bad example to follow…

One response to “TGIA – Thank God it’s Africa

  1. It would be an interesting exercise to see if religious tolerance is the same if the demographic was reversed between Christian and Islam. Chris, still love all your posts and reflections.


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