Coronavirus: Why Ghana has gone into mourning after mass funeral ban

A woman touching a coffin that is shaped like a roosterImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Funerals in Ghana are well-known to be elaborate affairs with specifically designed coffins

In our sequence of letters from African writers, journalist and former Ghana authorities minister Elizabeth Ohene writes concerning the dramatic affect coronavirus is having on life in her nation and past.

If anybody had any doubt about simply how critical the Covid-19 outbreak is, we now have proof optimistic, we’re within the midst of an enormous disaster.

This is a disaster not measured but by how many individuals have been taken in poor health, or are in hospital or have died.

Here in Ghana, there are some issues which can be sacred in our lives and no person touches them below any circumstance: faith, handshakes and funerals.

These are topics that aren’t up for dialogue and many individuals imagine they outline our very existence.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Many peoples’ lives revolve round faith and the common prayer classes

For weeks, authorities and well being officers right here have been warning all people to enhance private hygiene and keep away from crowds.

Many folks most popular to suppose that the coronavirus wouldn’t make it into sub-Saharan Africa and due to this fact they believed the warnings by the well being specialists might be ignored.

‘Only enemies refuse to shake fingers’

Whoever heard of a Ghanaian, certainly, an African greeting one other particular person and never shaking fingers?

To refuse or ignore to shake fingers with somebody signifies that particular person is an enemy. Now we won’t shake fingers with anyone, pal or foe.

President Nana Akufo-Addo set the tone for the brand new guidelines on the celebrations of Ghana’s 63rd independence anniversary on 6 March, when he ostentatiously saved each his fingers resolutely behind his again when he arrived on the ceremony to greet these seated on the dais.

And as if the prohibition on handshaking was not traumatic sufficient, a ban has been placed on the holding of funerals. The official announcement says there might be personal burials, however no mass gatherings of mourners.


There isn’t any such factor as a non-public burial in our considering and funerals are big, dramatic and common ceremonies”

I am not sure I can convey the enormity of this on the Ghanaian psyche.

There is no such thing as a private burial in our thinking and funerals are huge, dramatic and regular ceremonies.

Our lives revolve around funerals.

The catering industry relies on funerals to survive, the textile industry needs orders for funeral cloths to stay in business, the tailors and dressmakers are busy mostly because they make clothes for funerals; choral groups, events organisers, transportation and manufacturers and sellers of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks would disappear without funerals.

But there will be no more funerals.

Come to think of it, what with the hand shaking ban, it’s probably just as well that a ban has been placed on funerals.

We can’t have funerals and not shake hands, the entire funeral ceremony consists of shaking hands, shaking hands and shaking hands.

The ban on religious gatherings here, and in some countries elsewhere on the continent, is having a big impact on people for whom communal prayer and the discipline of the religious calendar are central to their lives.

But there is silence in the mosques and in the churches here in Ghana.

When the announcement was first made by the president, the Christian leaders were stunned and the charismatic churches in particular were in total disbelief.

Miracle prayers

It was unthinkable that anything or anybody could close church services. The all-night services, the miracle services, the anointing services have taken over all our lives.

Some had hoped that the promise of miracle prayers to save Ghana from the scourge of coronavirus would convince the president to keep the churches and mosques open, but he was not moved to change his mind.

And they will stay closed throughout Easter, the most sacred festival on the Christian calendar.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption For some it is hard to imagine life without religious services

The order to close the churches is turning out to be the most difficult one for people to obey.

The mainstream churches are complying and many are offering online services, which include provisions for offertory to be made through mobile money donations.

But some of the charismatic churches seem to think they are allowed to flout the order not to hold church services by claiming they are offering special prayers against Covid-19.

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Going to church multiple times a week is normal for many people and the news is usually full of the antics of some of the so-called men of God.

The president asked the nation to fast and pray on Wednesday this week and doubtless, some people would have had difficulty accepting that they could fast and pray by themselves at home without going to church.

From here, we keenly follow all the news about how the rest of the continent is doing with the role of religion in the march of the deadly coronavirus.

President John Magufuli

Getty Images

Coronavirus is a satan, it can’t stay within the physique of Christ, it should burn immediately. This is a time to construct our religion”

I’ve little doubt that the method of Tanzanian President John Magufuli can be cited by some folks right here as value following.

He has banned public gatherings and closed colleges as we’ve, however he mentioned he didn’t ban church or mosque worship as a result of these had been locations the place “true healing” passed off.

“Coronavirus is a devil, it can not live in the body of Christ, it will burn instantly. This is a time to build our faith,” President Magufuli, who has a PhD in chemistry and is a religious Catholic, mentioned at a church service final Sunday.

President Akufo-Addo has urged us to hunt the face of God and pray for Ghana however he’s sticking to the science and emphasising the washing of fingers, social distancing and the church buildings and mosques stay closed.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Zion Christian Church’s Easter gathering usually attracts a whole bunch of hundreds of worshippers

It is now getting by way of to many individuals that we’re in lethal uncharted territory when the Zion Christian Church (ZCC), in all probability the most important church in southern Africa, introduced it had postponed all gatherings together with their Easter service.

This service usually attracts tens of millions of pilgrims, who congregate on the foothills of the Moria Mountain in Limpopo in the course of the Easter weekend, and there certainly can’t be a extra dramatic spectacle.

Never, within the historical past of the ZCC, since its inception in 1910, has the church postponed or cancelled its pilgrimage.

We cannot shake fingers, we won’t have funerals, we won’t go to worship on the mosque or the church, the ZCC has postponed its Easter pilgrimage; we’re within the midst of an emergency alright.

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