January 8, 2009

Safer in Ghana than just about anywhere on earth

We have a new site www.g-lish.org where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Safer in Ghana than just about anywhere on earth there.

A few months after arriving in Ghana some three years ago I realised that poverty and peace were not necessarily mutually exclusive. And it was just after the ice cream ran out (now that could have caused an international incident) on Christmas night in Cape Coast two weeks ago that I realized our motley group of “orphans” gathered around the table were safer living here--together--than just about any nation on the planet.

At a glance you would have said we were African, Asian and Caucasian. If you sat for a while you might have said we were Ghanaian, Australian, American, Japanese, and Canadian. And Ghanaians might have pointed out that they were Frafra, Krobo, Ewe, and Fanti, although they’d normally claim their Ghanaianness first (especially during the football).

The rest of the world would no doubt have spotted our religions: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, atheists (not exactly a religion), and spiritualists.

Why we are safer here than almost any modern nation you care to name is that Ghanaians have transcended the thorny sounding concept of “religious tolerance”; they already live “acceptance.” They don’t question where or how you pray. And they won’t hold it against you if it’s not in their church or mosque. Most Ghanaians I’ve spoken to about this are only confused if you don’t pray at all.

And Ghana is not a target for any group or other. The one thing that Ghanaians won't condone is conflict, which I discovered during my experience in and on the way to Bawku where most people were fed up with the fighting.

The tolerance, in part, stems from education; this is a country where pre-schoolers are taught, in big bold letters on the concrete chalk board, to: "Love your Christian brothers and sisters and love your Muslim brothers and sisters." The Koran and The Bible are studied equally and respected equally in religious education classes.

This is an achievement by any standards. Moreover, in a nation where every day is a struggle to eat for over 95% of the population, and in a world that is increasingly polarised by religious "difference," that something has not become a scapegoat is almost unfathomable. Yet, you can safely and openly go about your prayers on whichever path you prefer to seek God. You can also wear your political preferences and tribal ethnicity on your sleeve too. (Sexuality, however, has a ways to go.)

Which brings me to an interview with the legendary Pico Iyer on World Hum in which he said,
“I think one of the curious consequences of 9/11 is that it used to be that the rich countries of the world seemed relatively safe and the poor ones relatively dangerous, but I don’t think we can rest on those illusions now. Actually, it may be the rich countries which are more dangerous now.”Perhaps it was always an illusion. Nevertheless, one can no longer equate “undeveloped” with “unsafe.” That would be delusion. Here in Ghana I know that poverty and peace are not mutually exclusive. I feel safe. If only poverty were an illusion.

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