Canon Tom Kennar, rector of St Faith’s church in Havant, talks about his visits to the African country of Ghana
It is a place where the old native religions – known as fetish worship, or Voodoo – are still very much alive and well.
Such religions trap people in fear – fear that if they don’t say the right prayer, or pay the right price to a priest, then they or their family will be cursed.
The church in Ghana – of many denominations – is doing an excellent job of teaching people that there is a better way. Around 60 per cent of the population are now Christians, 15 per cent are peaceful Muslims and the religious communities provide essential infrastructure, like hospitals and schools, which the State is too poor to provide itself.
In some ways, compared to the UK, Ghana can feel like a backward country.
Electricity is intermittent. The roads are often terrible. Public transport is dangerous, and there is much real poverty among its people.
But, you know, I also find on every visit that Ghana has much to teach us about how to live.
Ghanaian people, for example, are highly devoted to their families and communities.
Family ties are very strong, and no-one who has a family is ever in real danger of starving, despite the fact that there is no system of state welfare.
The Ghanaian attitude to TV and entertainment is very different to ours too.
With intermittent electricity, and a very poor selection of decent channels to watch, television has only a peripheral role in the life of the country. Unlike the UK, one rarely hears of people spending their whole lives in front of the box.
Instead, people invest their energies into their community. Organisations like the Mothers Union or the Boys’ and Girls’ Brigades are very strong. The churches are overflowing, and their joyful services can often last up to five hours – even when temperatures are high.
I very much enjoy my visits to Ghana.
They always show me that the norms we take for granted in the UK are not always normal for people of other lands. We have much that we can teach people in developing countries. But they have as much, if not more, to teach us.
n St Faith’s Church is in West Street, Havant, PO9 1EH. Call (023) 9249 2129 or visit stfaith.com for more information.