June 15, 2024 8:47 am

Felix Anim-Appau writes: Beyond the Pulpit; Reviving the Desmond Tutu legacy in nurturing the state

On Thursday, December 23, 2021, I published my article titled: “Exempting the culprit under the jacket of neutrality; an incentive for stupidity to thrive” –which talks about the sheer hypocrisy and politics of equalisation people exhibit under the guise of being neutral when perpetrators of foul deeds are supposed to be reproved.   

Three days after, Sunday, December 26, 2021, the internationally acclaimed clergy and Nobel Laureate who espoused the ills in remaining neutral inappropriately, Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu, passed on.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality,” the ardent maker of peace had once uttered.

Interestingly, I saw the news whilst in church that Sunday and my immediate setting made a lot of things ran through my mind pertaining the eulogies that were hailed on the late Archbishop globally. Yes, he was an Archbishop, a man of God, a servant who led the flock of the Creator of the universe. His assignment on earth, according to the Bible he held, had no business with the political affairs of the state. But his notoriety interestingly, is as a result of his fight for political freedom for his people.

About Desmond Tutu

Desmond Tutu is one of South Africa’s most well-known human rights activists, winning the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in resolving and ending apartheid. Born in 1931 in Klerksdorp, Transvaal, South Africa, he became the first Black Anglican Archbishop of both Cape Town and Johannesburg. Known as the voice of the voiceless Black South Africans, he was an outspoken critic of apartheid. Tutu also supported the economic boycott of South Africa, while constantly encouraging reconciliation between various factions associated with apartheid.

When Nelson Mandela was elected as the nation’s first Black president—he appointed Tutu chairperson of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission. In his human rights work, Tutu formulated his objective as “a democratic and just society without racial divisions,” and set forth demands for its accomplishment, including equal civil rights for all, a common system of education and the cessation of forced deportation.

What he did and why we should emulate

Mpilo Tutu, spoke against the injustice his compatriots faced to end the apartheid system in South Africa. He was applauded for skirmishing the iniquitous government at the time for segregating his countrymen and sinisterly eroding their freedom and dignity as humans with racial supremacy.

But, what do we see from the men of God today? What do we also say about the men behind the pulpit when they speak about the injustice in the system? There was racial injustice at Mpilo’s time in South Africa, and the connoisseurs of unconstructive criticism would say no such segregation exist contemporarily. But they have forgotten about the economic and social injustice we face today.

Politicians have continuously lied to citizens on what they intend to do and this is not peculiar to Ghana or Africa. However, the difference between us and them is that, in the end, those at the other side have something significant to show for. The nauseating part of it is when they turn around to say “it was a political talk”, relegating their sense of responsibility and leaving the masses in tattered penury. The men of God are quiet and those who seem to talk only find their voices under certain regimes. The few others who are critical in affairs of the state succumb to the backlash from party “fool soldiers” and abate their actions.

Even in the church, how many of us so-called Christians would find everything okay when our well revered pastors and bishops take up the mantle to speak for the citizenry? We need not a soothsayer or in this case, a prophet to tell us they would be bashed for turning the pulpit into a political podium. How the actions of the men of God favours the political interest of the congregants or otherwise, would determine the reactions they would put up. As Christians, we found everything perfect on how Desmond Tutu fought leadership to end apartheid, which was racial injustice. But everything seem wrong when same men of God with similar influence speak about the political and economic iniquities being meted to us today, this time, not by people of different race but our own brothers and sisters.

There are quite a number of influential men of God in the country and at a point, Pastor Mensah Otabil for instance was the most influential person in the country – I don’t know who occupies that spot for now though –and even though some of these men of God do comment on the happenings in the state sometimes, the consistent inconsistency of their criticisms glare the suspicions enwrapped them by the political crusaders sometimes. No matter how legit the criticisms are, people would still tag and call you names. But should the chastisement from people impede the persistence of our genuine criticisms? I don’t think Desmond Tutu had it on a silver platter.

The church today has become a commercial industry and many pastors don’t want to lose their congregants. Others also say because the church is a house of God, it is only meant for the things of God and not anything ‘untoward such as politics’. I’m not saying pastors should turn their auditoriums to Sefa Kayi’s ‘Kookrokoo’ or Captain Smart’s ‘Maakye’, because after all, Desmond Tutu’s advocacy was done beyond the church premises.

Tutu spoke against racial discrimination and it was perceived to be normal because the oppressors were foreigners. But one becomes an enemy of the state and sometimes tagged as being envious when they criticise the very people they employed with their thumbs because they are more privileged than their ’employers’.

He did his part and that’s what he is being remembered for today. What are we also doing to be remembered when we are no more, aside the sermons we preached to the nation?

With the influence and reverence some men of God possess in this country, it would serve Ghana a great purpose if they rise and fervently speak against the poor leadership because, more can be done beyond the pulpit. Same injustice yesterday exists today just that it has taken a different form and source. If the politicians have taken Ghanaians for fools, I don’t think the consistent vociferation of the likes of the Agyin Asares, Duncan Williams, Eric Nyamekyes, Heward-Mills, The Catholic Bishops Conference, the Presiding Bishops and Moderators of the Methodist and Presbyterian churches respectively, among others, would fall on deaf ears if they speak with same voice in every regime.

And my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, if your pastor demands a better economy from leadership for the citizenry, be it on the pulpit or outside it, remove your political lenses and reason for once as a citizen instead and not be a spectator.

The writer, Felix Anim-Appau, manages Ghanasonline.com and SmartMediaGh.com. He is a lover of politics and social issues. He is not neutral but tries to be fair. Follow him on Twitter @platofintegrity.

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