Got Religion?

The last two weeks of Ramadan were punishing. Not only were the Muslims forbidden to eat or drink during the day but they were also not allowed to sleep at night. The call to prayer which was already being broadcast at midnight, 3:00am and 5:00am had escalated into nonstop harassment from midnight until 3:00 followed by the handy refresher call at 5. After which the roosters began to crow.

To make things worse, other denominations in the neighborhood felt moved to compete with the Muslims by broadcasting their own holy rantings. Apparently not only mosques come equipped with loud speakers. For three solid hours every night the voices echoed through the neighborhood, amplified by the concrete and block constructed homes. We were collateral damage.

We took to running the fan all night and I began wearing earplugs to bed. Despite our best efforts, we lost sleep.

Ghana is a very religious country. 68.8 % of Ghanaians are Christian and 15.9% are Muslim according to the CIA factbook section on Ghana. Fewer than 7% checked the other or none census boxes for religion in 2000.

Ghanain CIA Statistics: Christian 68.8% (Pentecostal/Charismatic 24.1%, Protestant 18.6%, Catholic 15.1%, other 11%), Muslim 15.9%, traditional 8.5%, other 0.7%, none 6.1% (2000 census)

In comparison, Factbook information for the United States indicates that nearly twice as many Americans checked unaffiliated or unspecified.

U.S. CIA Statistics: Protestant 51.3%, Roman Catholic 23.9%, Mormon 1.7%, other Christian 1.6%, Jewish 1.7%, Buddhist 0.7%, Muslim 0.6%, other or unspecified 2.5%, unaffiliated 12.1%, none 4% (2007 est.)

We wondered if anyone else was being disturbed by the broadcasts. After the first night of the new midnight-to-3am schedule, I mentioned it to Mary, the friendly shop keeper on our street. She informed me that they were mourning the dead president. “Good,” I thought to myself, “Then this will all be over in three days after he is buried on Friday.” But the nightly raving didn’t end after the body of John Atta Mills reached its final resting place.

During these two weeks of sleepless nights, Bob dreamed up several responses to the night time attacks. He thought about dressing in the same colors as the church and climbing up the wall with a pair of dykes to cut the lines to the loud speakers. Surely the imam must catch up on his own sleep during the day, so Bob imagined he might find out where the holy man lived. Then he could stand outside his home during the day with a bull horn and chant, “Hey holy man get up this is the obruni you kept awake last night” and so on.

I’d like to say that after Ramadan was over we were able to return to our customary undisturbed nights of blissful sleep and to be sure, the prayer calls have been reduced to short five-minute moaning by the closest mosque. But, every once in a while, once a week or so, a nearby church is moved to conduct an all-night service. And of course, if you are going to be up all night, you might as well broadcast it for the benefit of the neighborhood.

And it isn’t just the churches doing the broadcasting. Anyone with the means to buy a set of speakers and a microphone can set themselves up on a street corner or in a van and have a turn at blowing out our eardrums. I’ve had to plug my ears while walking down the street. Ironically, as I type this, someone across the street has begun ranting repetitive exhortations at high decibels.

We weren’t the only people to react negatively to this phenomenon. I was happy to find there are others who share my pain and are calling out for sanity regarding disruptive night time broadcasts.

A blog post from mid-July in which the owner of Four Villages Inn observes “Early Sunday morning…first the birds…then….the church at Apraman” and calls for “an association to calm down the Christian bullies and their agenda…”

And this letter to the local TV Station Vibe Ghana on August 14:

Should Noisy All-night Church Services That Disturb Whole Neighbourhoods Be Banned In Ghana?

“Unable to sleep myself, and trying unsuccessfully to ignore the confounded arrogance of semi-literates being belted out at ear-drum-shattering decibel-levels through loudspeakers, it also occurred to me that perhaps my high net-worth neighbours were probably also fretting…”

In Belize there is a saying, “If you come to Belize with patience, you’ll lose it. If you come to Belize without patience, you will find it.” I think it might be an appropriate to say about Ghana “If you come to Ghana with religion, you’ll lose it. If you come to Ghana without religion, you will learn to despise it.”

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.