ACCRA – The office of a tribal chief is so embedded in Ghana’s culture that “most Ghanaians today cannot imagine a community without a chief.” In fact, in Accra, the nation’s capital, 95 percent of the residents would not favor abolition of the office of tribal chief.A study conducted by Sage Journals described the village tribal chief as “the heart and mind of his people. When he gives directives, it is seen as the law.”Like many other tribal nations, the tribal chiefs traditionally seek the favors of his tribe’s pagan gods on the tribe’s behalf. Although Ghana is a secular government, the chiefs, nonetheless, are expected to carry out the practices that have been a customary component of the tribal culture.
GhanaWeb published an article in 2016 that shared the story of Clement A – Ugidima. At issue was whether Clement, a devoted Christian, would abandon his faith once he was installed as his tribe’s next chief.
The article raised the point that “Chieftaincy here cannot be practically separated from African traditional religion and its associated rituals.”
Clement made it clear that “I am a Christian, a born again one. I cannot be both a Christian and an African traditionalist. I ‘d rather leave my hometown and go somewhere than to denounce my Christian faith to become a traditional chief. I will never do that.”
Clement was named chief. However, his refusal to deny his faith in Christ made him a target for unbelievers. Their intense search for him and their intent to do him harm eventually drove him out of the country.
His was not an isolated case. Some have lived to tell their stories. Others have been murdered in cold blood.
Lest we despair, the Lord has been miraculously seeding chief positions with believers who stalwartly refuse to engage in or promote ancient tribal rituals.
Largely the result of the work of faithful missionaries as far back as the 1960s introducing young people to the Lord, a growing number of Christian men have been appointed as tribal chiefs. They have proven themselves to be men of integrity, compassion, and sound judgment ideally suited for the real responsibilities of the position.
Just a few days ago, the top chief and overlord of the traditional kingdom of Mamprugu in North Ghana, formally appointed a Christian man as his Taraana. In Western culture, the Taraana would be similar to a chief of staff or right-hand man. This is the first time that a Christian has held that high office.
The International Mission Board is a witness to the changes in Ghana.
“There are now so many Christian chiefs in Ghana’s north that . . . they formed their own fellowship society—Northern Ghana’s Christian Chiefs Association. Among their aims are the desire to “promote and integrate Christian principles and ethics in the Chieftaincy institution” and to “discourage harmful socio-cultural practices and traditions in their communities.””
One chief shared this wisdom as he looked back at the past and the change being witnessed today.
“People didn’t know what a Christian was. But when they see that you are good, kind, compassionate—like Jesus—they want you to be their leader. They see we have become peacemakers.”
The preaching of the Gospel has been making a difference in this African nation. Pray for these Christian leaders will remain faithful to Christ and His calling on their lives.
To read more news on World Missions on Missions Box, go here.
- God Reports, Christian chiefs multiply in northern Ghana, rule their kingdoms with compassion
- GhanaWeb, To remain a Christian or to become a traditional chief
- Sage Journals, Chiefs in the City: Traditional Authority in the Modern State
- The International Mission Board, The Christian Chiefs of Northern Ghana
- JY midey [CC BY-SA 4.0]