Celebrations Separatists Islam Traditional Religions


The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. The status of respect for religious freedom improved somewhat during the period covered by this report. The Government has increased its prosecution of violent acts, including religious violence, and improved its efforts to resolve religious conflicts. The general amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom; however, tensions between different branches of the same faith, as well as between Christian and traditional faiths, sometimes occur. There are a number of governmental and nongovernmental efforts to promote inter- and intra-faith understanding. The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.

Religious composition in Ghana (2000 Census):
-Christian—68.8% (Pentecostal/Charismatic-24.1%, Protestant-18.6%, Catholic-15.1%, other-11%)

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Religious tolerance in Ghana is very high. The major Christian celebrations of Christmas and Easter are recognized as national holidays. Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, is observed by Muslims across the country. Important traditional occasions are celebrated by the respective ethnic groups. These festivals include the Adae, which occur fortnightly, and the annual Odwira festivals of the Akan. On these sacred occasions, the Akan ancestors are venerated. There are also the annual Homowo activities of the Ga-Adangbe, during which people return to their home towns to gather together, to greet new members of the family, and to remember the dead. The religious rituals associated with these festivities are strictly observed by the traditional elders of the respective ethic groups.

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The rise of Apostolic or Pentecostal churches across the nation partly demonstrates the impact of social change and the eclectic nature of traditional cultures. These establishments, referred to by some as separatist or spiritual churches or cults, combine traditional beliefs in magic and divination with elements of Christianity. The major emphasis of the cults is on curative and preventive remedies, chants, and charms such as "holy water" designed to ward off the power of witches and malevolent forces. Cults also offer social activities in addition to their religious and medical roles. Some have rival drum societies and singing groups that are highly popular among the young and women. To their adherents, these cults seem to offer a sense of security derived from belonging to a religious group that is new yet maintains the characteristics of traditional forms of occult consultation.

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The spread of Islam into West Africa, beginning with ancient Ghana in the ninth century, was mainly the result of the commercial activities of North African Muslims. The empires of both Mali and Songhai that followed ancient Ghana in the Western Sudan adopted the religion. Islam made its entry into the northern territories of modern Ghana around the fifteenth century. Mande or Wangara traders and clerics carried the religion into the area. The northeastern sector of the country was also influenced by Muslims who escaped the Hausa jihads of northern Nigeria in the early nineteenth century.

Most Ghanaian Muslims are Sunni, following the Maliki version of Islamic law. Sufism, involving the organization of mystical brotherhoods (tariq) for the purification and spread of Islam, is not widespread in Ghana. The Tijaniyah and the Qadiriyah brotherhoods, however, are represented. The Ahmadiyah, a Shia sect originating in nineteenth-century India, is the only non-Sunni order in the country. Despite the spread of Islamism (popularly known as Islamic fundamentalism) in the Middle East, North Africa, and even in Nigeria since the mid-1970s, Ghanaian Muslims and Christians have had excellent relations.

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Traditional Religions

Despite the presence of Islam and Christianity, traditional religions in Ghana have retained their influence because of their intimate relation to family loyalties and local mores. Veneration of departed ancestors is a major characteristic of all traditional religions. The ancestors are believed to be the most immediate link with the spiritual world, and they are thought to be constantly near, observing every thought and action of the living. Some ancestors may even be reincarnated to replenish the lineage. Barrenness is, therefore, considered a great misfortune because it prevents ancestors from returning to life.

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Information courtesy of: Library of Congress



Ghanaian Typologies




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