Each morning, on the bumpy ride to work I stare out the window, confronted with signs such as “Jesus Saves Hair Salon.” Or, perhaps, “Our Redeemer Construction.” Reading these, you might think Ghana is religious. You would be right. Predominantly Christian, but with a strong Muslim following, with a smattering of other/local religions, Ghana is like most of the developing world, fiercely religious. I found in Tanzania, when asked if you were religious, the answer was, yes, of course-catholic to be specific-lest you want an hour lecture (out of concern, not malice) about your after-life, regardless of your true beliefs. So, I’ve taken a cautious approach and change the subject whenever possible. As a side note, those signs, which constantly provide entertainment aren’t just religious, like east Africa (Bling Bling Barber Shop comes to mind)-there are plenty of other, I’ll say, interesting names and signs postings (often on the back of trotros). For example, next to the previously mentioned hair salon is a wall with a note spray painted large enough to likely see from a plane: STOP URINATING HERE FOOL. Apparently, it’s problem.
But back to religion. In the lab, where many discussions seem to occur, the topic was brought up. I squirmed a bit, waiting for the inevitable, so, “what do you believe?” But instead, they discussed freedom of religion. One of the techs says “I’m Muslim, but he’s Christian-to me it doesn’t matter, you’re usually born into what you believe, it’s really all the same, and he’s my brother.” And he isn’t alone, most Ghanians believe the same, religious prosecution is few and far between, one factor I would imagine that contributes to the relative stability this country boasts. After all, nothing tears the developing world up quite like religion can. I admit, I’m highly critical of religion, especially in the first world. Perhaps it is my scientific mind, or every account of massacre at the name of some greater power. I’m guarded lets say. But I think they’ve got something right here-or at least my colleagues do.
One, worked six years before University to save up. I asked him if he thought it was worth it when he said he wasn’t making nearly what he expected, or hoped, to support his family. His response is reflective, to me the great insight of perhaps the people, and certainly this individual. He said, “I was lucky. I see so many suffer, die young, and lead miserable lives. What great insult would it be to God to waste what I was given, I must do something with my life, to make it better for my family.” I was speechless. In part because I was simply impressed, just yesterday he was complaining about everything he disliked about his home country and everything that needs to change. For the most part, I’ve found people here want to go abroad for their education, mostly, so that they can come back and make their home a better place-living elsewhere isn’t an option. So counter to the US! I would be lying if I said I was patriotic, I won’t support something simply because I was born into it-it has to earn that from me, and thus far the US has proved an excellent place for a home-base, but that’s about it. Perhaps, we are the “entitled generation.” And I doubt his view will change mine (in regards to my dis-passionate view of the US), but I certainly deeply respect him for what he hold true-he is an asset to his country.