The government of Ghana decided to build a national cathedral as a legacy project to commemorate the country’s 60th Anniversary. The government however, says the construction of the cathedral will come at no cost to the taxpayer. What is hard to understand is that the same government said it will provide seed money for its construction. The cathedral will sit around a 14-acre garden and will have chapels, a baptistery, a music school, an art gallery, a Bible Museum, and a Documentation Centre. It is expected to seat 5,000 people in its main auditorium and will be constructed by renowned British-Ghanaian architect, Sir David Adjaye.
Let me equally place on record that I am a Christian lest I be accused of doing the bidding of the devil and the anti-Christ. In fact, already people who have been bold to express reservations about the building of the national cathedral have been branded as anti Christs or demons. We live in a country where all fair-minded people are hushed into subjugation and perpetual silence because anytime you say anything contrary to the status quo, you are tagged as an adversary, a naysayer, pessimist or nonconformist. By so doing, we have created a palpable culture of silence in Ghana not because all is well but precisely because people dread to freely swim against the tide th ough there is freedom of speech and expression.
The Real Issues
There is such a preposterous confusion surrounding the construction of the national cathedral that makes one wonder what the national leadership of the day and the co-opted leadership of the church in this country seek to achieve with the edifice. We have been told that the state is not funding the cathedral from the national coffers yet the state is providing seed money shrouded in secrecy such that even the fundraising committee is oblivious of how much the state is providing financially. The taxpayer is entitled to know what his money is being used for. According to www.myjoyonline.com, an article published on August 31, 2018, “Neither the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources nor Adjaye
Associates commented on the cost of the project. It is also unclear which sector will cover the costs and/or if it will be funded by taxpayers.”
The cost of putting up the national cathedral is simply callous, unreasonable and highly questionable. The cost begins with the opportunity cost or the forgone alternative in raising this edifice. What we are losing as a nation drowns any reasonable justification for building it. We are denying myriads of people healthy drinking water, infrastructure, social amenities and security in our quest to tickle ourselves in the name of a national cathedral. The cost of the existing structures and plush apartments which were hosting eminent judicial officers and national installations aside private properties, cost of demolishing the existing structures, cost of compensation for the demolished structures, cost of resettlement of the hitherto residents, cost of procuring land for national installations among many other hidden and unforeseen costs are just incalculable.
For the purposes of educating the public, the following structures, built with the taxpayers money are to be demolished to make way for the construction of a national cathedral: the Passport Office, the residence of Greater Accra regional Minister, Judicial training institute, National Scholarships Secretariat, eight residential bungalows for Judges, AITI-KACE (Advance Information Technology Institute – Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence), office of the Ministry of Communications, Ghana Maritime Authority building, the College of Physicians building, other expensive national and private facilities and institutions. Following the demolition of the above structures, the government of Ghana will rent new apartments for affected persons and institutions for two years at the behest of the taxpayer and the poor Ghanaian. Eventually, the government will build new edifices for the affected institutions and individuals at Cantonment by 2020 so that they can move in permanently at the cost of the taxpayer, unfortunately. Do we have a conscience as a nation? My fellow Christians and Christian leaders, are we sure this is pleasing and acceptable to God? The Bible enjoins Christians that our good works should not be evil spoken of, suggesting that actions must be measured on the basis of its spiritual and social merits.
I do not know the legal basis for the construction of the cathedral since Ghana is supposed to be a secular state. The country recognizes at least three major religions namely the Christian religion, the Islamic religion, and the traditional, religion apart from other identifiable faiths. The state is gradually veering into religious affairs too often too many times. Government sponsorship for Muslim pilgrimages began many years back and we sat silently resulting in equivalent sponsorship for Christian pilgrimages to Jerusalem and now the building of a national cathedral. One cannot help but wait with bated breath as to government’s next move. When governments are elected, it does not mean the resources of the country become their personal assets to commit to, using according to their whims and caprices.
God created man in his image and likenes and therefore if we claim to love God but treat people anyhow, then we are just being hypocritical and insensitive. We live in a country where human beings drink from the same streams and water sources as livestock and wild animals, pregnant women find it difficult to locate even a clinic at the point of delivery, innocent children school under trees and deathtraps, people cannot find one healthy meal per day, many roads become impassable during rainy season while others are full of manholes instead of potholes, vocational and technical training institutions are poorly resourced, among many other dire conditions which make life practically impossible for the ordinary Ghanaian. We are not perturbed by the poor conditions under which people live but we are proud of raising a magnificent edifice for the God who does not dwell in temples made by human hands. We are not in the least worried treading people underfoot but we are worried honouring God with a national cathedral. We love and prioritize the needs of God whom we do not see but disregard needs of next door neighbours and fellow countrymen. Our spirituality or religiosity is nothing if people don’t matter to us.
David’s desire to build the temple was rejected by God because he had shed much blood. We live in a country where road accidents alone claim more than two thousand lives annually, maternal and infant mortalities are in the tens of thousands, hunger related deaths are uncountable, poverty inducing deaths are incalculable and premature deaths engineered by harsh economic conditions are mindbogglingly high. One wonders how we are able to think of national cathedral as a priority in the midst of all these drowning economic conditions! Much of the bloodshed is directly and indirectly tied to the national irresponsibility orchestrated by poor leadership, corruption, naked thievery and wanton dissipation of national resources. Through the actions and inactions of national leaders, precious lives are sent to their early graves like livestock during religious festivities including Christmas, Easter and the like.
The story of the Good Samaritan is worth considering in this regard. Here was a man who was badly battered and abandoned to his fate. A priest and a levite happened to chance on the wounded man but unfortunately they considered their priestly and temple duties sacred to be set aside to attend to an individual in dire need of care. Ironically, most Ghanaians, especially those of the Christian fraternity think that, building a national cathedral is a sacred and spiritual duty but attending to the needs of the ordinary Ghanaian is not Christian or spiritual. Jesus Christ commended the Good Samaritan because he abandoned his own interest and ambition to see to the need of one man who needed assistance and care. Those who insist that building of the national cathedral is a priority of priorities are simply demonstrating a rather cheap and populist of show of religious bigotry and intoxication.
The responsibility of the government is clearly defined and strictly so by the constitution of Ghana. The first duty of the government is to guarantee the rights, privileges and freedoms of all citizens including religious rights and not to interfere and meddle in religious affairs. Politicians across the divide have been populist regarding religious affairs because it plays to their advantage in elections and not because it serves the national interest or any specific spiritual purposes. Politicians would do anything in the name of religion, if it will serve their parochial interest and win votes for them.
It drives me crazy, how a country that loses 30% of her GDP to corruption according to Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) and SEND-Ghana, could be dreaming of national cathedral from primarily corrupt pockets granted it is even private individuals who are raising funds to build the God forsaken national cathedral. I can only imagine the aroma of the praises and prayer from such an edifice to the God of heaven. If over 50,000 churches in Ghana are not enough to glorify God and ensure moral regeneration and transformation, then building a national cathedral certainly will not make any sense and impact eventually. If there is any specific need for government after 60 years of national independence to partner Christian churches for national development, it should be a partnership to work on the mindset, attitudes and behaviour of Ghanaians to live worthy and transformed lives devoid of corruption, bribery, laziness, stealing, greed, partisanship, poor work ethics and poor leadership.
A message from Stephen in the book of Acts would suffice for a conclusion on this rather thorny topic: Acts.7.47 –51
(But Solomon built Him a house. “However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says: “Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. What house will you build for Me? says the LORD, Or what is the place of My rest? Has My hand not made all these things?’ “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you).
Never the less, the message is crystal clear; it is only the stiff necked, those with wicked heart and those who are insensitive to the plight of the ordinary Ghanaian who would support the building of the misplaced priority in a national cathedral. The building of the national cathedral is simply a travesty of national interest and wellbeing. I rest my case. God and posterity would condemn or vindicate our actions and inactions today.
I strongly suggest that if government after 60 years of national independence desires to undertake any worthwhile legacy project of national significance and character, we should rather contemplate building a “NATIONAL CENTRE FOR THINKING AND RESEARCH” to help proffer solutions to the myriads of problems and challenges that threaten the development and wellbeing of mother Ghana. God would be better honoured and glorified when we are able to tackle national problems without having to depend hopelessly on other countries and people, having in mind the “Ghana Beyond Aid” agenda of the current government.
(Writer: Clement Adjei Sarfo, leadershipempowermentint.org, firstname.lastname@example.org/0274445696)