Spirituality of sanitation; Good leadership by the Church of Pentecost

Spirituality of sanitation; Good leadership by the Church of Pentecost
Source: By: Gabriel Nii Otu Ankrah
Date: 28-11-2018 Time: 12:11:10:am

I have never been this happy in my life, at least for the last few years, until Friday, 23rd November 2018 when the media landscape was awash with the news that the Church of Pentecost in collaboration with Zoomlion, has launched a sustainable environmental program dubbed: Environmental Care Campaign, at the ATTC in Accra.

Myjoyonline’s David Andoh reported that the Environmental Care Campaign is designed to tackle four areas such as Education, Clean-up Exercises, Community-based initiatives and other activities. It focuses on attitudinal change and unhealthy practices that contribute to environmental degeneration. These poor environmental practices include open defecation, noise pollution, improper disposal of waste, poor handling of pests and domestic animals, and unfriendly environmental-means of livelihood. Prior to this the church organized a training workshop for over 100,000 of its Elders, Deacons and Deaconesses on Environmental Care.

One might wonder why this regular and “gramophone-broken” piece of information regarding sanitation and the current state of filth in Ghana, should excite anyone. Many Ghanaians, I dare to say, have given up on President Akufo –Addo’s apparent “addicted conviction” that Ghana would be one of the cleanest countries in Africa. The naysayers would, and rightly so, puff at the President’s conviction because they see the reality around them.

I am excited because I have always belonged to the school of thought that holds that faith-based organizations like the church, occupies a very key position in the community to positively influence attitudinal change since the sanitation challenge is purely behavioral. More so, the very people who litter or generate refuse with careless abandon and the governmental leadership that must make decisions, claim to be spiritual – professing one faith or the other (Christianity, Islam, African Traditional Religion, Nature worshipers etc). The Church, in my conviction and for the purpose of this writing, must be that change agent to lead the way for a cleaner environment.

Ghanaians tout themselves as a highly religious people. Christianity remains the largest religion in Ghana, with approximately 71.2% of the country's population being members of various Christian denominations as of 2010 census-Pentecostal/Charismatic 28.3%, Protestant 18.4%, Catholic 13.1% and other Christians 11.4%. And rightly so, many socio-politico-economic and cultural interventions by government, institutions and civil society have achieved needed results by using preachers or pulpits as means of communicating the change message. Religious leaders play a leading role in all aspects of life on a daily basis and their messages and teachings in the media, mosques, and churches are widely followed by the communities. The influence of faith on everyday life can therefore not be overemphasized.

In the year 2014, Ghana witnessed an unmatched outbreak of cholera, snuffing the lives of hundreds. As at October, 2014 cholera cases specifically recorded was 20,279 with 169 deaths. This situation was very perilous hence precipitating the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to initiate the National Sanitation Day (NSD) in November, 2014. The NSD which was scheduled for the first Saturday of every month was supposed to deal with the rather embarrassing poor sanitation and to improve the quality of life in Ghana. The National Sanitation Day platform was well-intended and should have been the assembling call to raise awareness and to instigate sanitation action in local communities. Despite its pronounced intentions and initial enthusiasm, the programme failed to make any significant impact on local communities (Bob Manteaw , 2017). For the most part, the National Sanitation Day initiative only came to represent what many perceived as a monthly fanfare of traveling high profile personnel from showbiz and government circles that converged in towns and cities around the country, to clean. All too soon, enthusiasm for the National Sanitation Day dwindled and died naturally. The monthly traveling party of sanitation crusaders from Accra lost the momentum and the showmanship could not be sustained.

George Owusu of the University of Ghana did an extensive work on sanitation particularly in a zongo community in Accra and his findings are relevant to this piece. According to his work, a key challenge facing the city of Accra is sanitation and waste management. The Medium-Term Development Plan (MTDP), 2006–2009, of Accra’s local government, namely the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), has described the current state of sanitation in Accra as very unsatisfactory and characterized by choked drains, indiscriminate waste disposal and uncollected refuse in central waste containers (AMA 2006). As a result of these challenges, a substantial proportion of the waste generated in Accra is uncollected and ends up in drainage systems, water bodies and open spaces (Ayee and Crook 2003). It is estimated that Accra generates between 1500–1800 tons of waste per day. On average, 1,200 tons of the waste generated in the city is collected daily (AMA 2006), leaving between 300–600 tons of uncollected waste. In an attempt to effectively manage waste, Accra has been divided into six collection zones by AMA. The zones have been awarded to private waste collection companies for fees charged according to specific contractual agreements between these companies and the metropolitan authority. Two types of waste collection systems operate in the city namely the central container system and the door-to-door waste collection system. The central container system of waste collection is used in the low-income areas of the city. Under this system, containers are placed at designated points for households to get rid of their waste and no fees are charged for this service. Door-to-door waste collection is prominent in affluent areas of Accra. In this case, private companies engaged in door-to-door waste collection. Within the city of Accra, it has been recognized that approximately 20% of communities/neighborhoods in the city are covered by door-to-door waste collection whilst the remaining 80% are covered by communal collection through the skip container system (AMA 2006).

A study conducted by the Water and Sanitation Programme of the World Bank has said Ghana spends more than GH¢1.4 billion annually to combat the effects of poor sanitation and open defecation. According to the study the amount is spent on the purchase of medicines and providing emergency beds for persons afflicted with non-communicable diseases such as cholera and diarrhea and also for treatment of water. It said the amount is also used in buying chemicals to purify and treat water that had been contaminated through open defecation. Ghana has slipped further on its sanitation performance globally to become the world’s 7th worst performing country according to a The Joint Monitoring Programme report of the World Health Organization, 2015. Equally, recent developments at the global level put enormous responsibility on government for the attainment of high-quality standards in water and sanitation service provision. The 2030 Sustainable Development Goal for water and sanitation (SDG 6) commits to availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.   

Saint Augustine of Hippo has succinctly explained Spirituality as because we are created in the image of God we are restless until we find God - “I sought for something to love…There was a hunger within me from a lack of inner food, which is none other than yourself, my God”. So God has made us for Himself, and we are restless until we have our rest in Him. Spirituality therefore is a universal human yearning for an intimate relationship with God or the Supernatural. Spirituality calls for the following of certain religious practices and disciplines, values and norms that are considered useful in helping us find the real meaning of life. For others, Spirituality is a state in which we are connected to God, Nature, and to each other, at the deepest part of ourselves. Again, for others Spirituality is the practical outworking of religious experiences into everyday living. 

As a student of The Book (Bible), I appreciate very much Deuteronomy 23: 10 – 15(ESV). This text is on the purity and cleanliness of the camp - when Israel was engaged in a military expedition, the camp was not to be defiled by the presence within it of any accidental pollution, v. 11–12 (10–11); and a place is to be reserved outside the camp for the necessities of nature. The instruction to have a place outside the camp meant to choose a place or “designate a place to be used as a toilet area. V 13 .Even the uncovered excrement would defile the camp, which was a holy place because of the presence of Yahweh –‘The Lord your God walks in the midst of the camp’. As Christians or Believers, it therefore becomes mandatory to esteem cleanliness or issues bordering on sanitation since God is always with us or ‘walks in the midst of his people’. 

Tearfund, a Christian relief and development agency based in the United Kingdom which has worked in over 50 countries and primarily focuses on supporting those in poverty and providing disaster relief for disadvantaged communities in May 2009, presented a summary paper on “The role of the church in improving access to sanitation” at the Water, Engineering Development Centre (WEDC) International Conference. The report “Keeping communities clean” explored five roles that the local church or church-based organizations can play in their communities to help improve hygiene and sanitation practices.

Depending on the church’s capacity and the context, it may be able to fulfil one or more of these roles:

  • Messenger – communicating messages about improved sanitation and hygiene.
  • Demonstrator – offering individuals and communities the chance to see and experience a well-kept toilet or hand-washing facility.
  • Implementer – helping individuals and communities to attain improved sanitation and hygiene facilities, through technical and financial support.
  • Advocate – speaking out to those in authority with and on behalf of communities to express their needs and their desire to have improved sanitation.
  • Guardian – helping communities and individuals maintain the gains achieved through improved hygiene and sanitation.

Indeed, the Church has a unique position- the church has inherent advantages which are useful for all roles. A common advantage which repeated itself throughout this report was the church’s central position at the heart of the community. It has a respected voice to be a Messenger, a central platform to be a Demonstrator, local knowledge to identify the most vulnerable as an Implementer, a long-term presence to be a Guardian and a link from grassroots to national networks to be an effective Advocate.

I am a Methodist but I am convinced that once again, the Church of Pentecost has showed the way and all other denominations must walk in it. Imagine the Catholic Church, Presbyterian, Methodist, Anglican, Global Evangelical, Evangelical Presbyterian, Baptist, Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements and by extension other faiths (Islam, African Traditional Religion, Scientists, Moralists, and Mormons) rally their followers through their preaching and exhortations as well as regular clean up exercises, we can win the war against filth. Indeed Ghana can be one of the cleanest countries in Africa. I submit that “Cleanliness is godliness and not “next’ to godliness.