Gold Coast Bereans

Out of Ghana, West Africa; Christian hearts and critical minds seeking, speaking and writing the truth with love. This is a conversation of a group of friends, now living in the USA and the UK, who have known each other for more than 20 years.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

OIL DISCOVERY IN GHANA - blessing or curse

I have observed a lot of pessimism being exhibited in the wake of the reported discovery of significant oil reserves in Ghana. I think this is because it is generally accepted or rather, postulated that Oil has been a curse to most African countries that have it. But can Ghana be different? So should we expect doom and gloom or are we ready for this leap into the unknown abyss of black gold?

Firstly, in all the countries on the African continent where oil has been found, the discovery was made when those countries were under dictatorships. Public expressions of approval or disapproval of policies were irrelevant and the global superpowers did as they pleased through those dictators. Ghana is a little unique because we have gone through that phase of our history already and on the surface we seem to have a fairly viable democracy where the opposition has been able to uproot the party in power on one occasion. In addition, the last presidential and parliamentary elections were much closer than most folks realize.

I do not think Americans have a better mind set than Ghanaians when it comes to natural resources. They plunder their own resources just as much as we do. There is a lot of corruption in high places here too, maybe in a different form. I believe that, as the Bible says, "the whole world is under the power of the evil one" and I think that every government left to its own devices will not act in the best interest of anyone The legislators will act in their own best interests and if it coincides with those of the people that is fine, if it does not then it becomes a pity.

Here is the difference, or what used to be the difference between Ghana and America, where I presently live. In the latter public scrutiny and anger coupled with a vibrant press makes the legislators and the executive more responsible to the needs of the people and therefore sometimes the legislation is truly altruistic. When there appears to be no concern from the public we see some of the crass that comes out of the leaders. Now I know that on some occasions, excellent leaders and great statesmen are in charge and this model may not hold, but I am looking at the general trend here. So why should we not expect that, our present free press in Ghana along with a more determined and less intimidated electorate, will force our leaders into more responsible decision making?

I am convinced that most of the positive changes in the societies we live in are brought about not by government as an entity- they could care less- but rather by men and women of conscience who stir up the public sentiment to see things the way they should be seen. These individuals may or may not be Christians. Apply this to most things we take for granted today like civil rights, the abolition of slavery, women’s rights, child labor laws, workers rights, even freedom of worship, education etc. In all of these, the government often opposed the activists from the very onset. In a lot of instances even the general populace was opposed to or indifferent to these actions and the activists were a minority. Once a general freedom of expression and association exists, very strong forces and movements can be harnessed that can influence a democratic legislature and sway even a powerful government.

Just maybe, there are people God has raised up who will begin to agitate things for the better back in Ghana, based on the learning experiences of the past. Why is this important to us as Christians? If you look at the map of Ghana in West Africa it actually occupies the central spot on the West African coastline. All around are areas of instability and more importantly of Islamic dominance. Ghana probably has the most self professing Christians of any West African nation - I don't have the statistics but I believe this statement to be true. So if Ghana succeeds, it follows that there may be an opportunity for Christians to influence the planting of churches and missions in some of these neighboring countries. Some Ghanaian churches are already doing this but the I believe Ghana, due to its political stability and emerging democracy, has the potential to become not just an economic beacon but a spiritual platform for evangelism

As important as it is for us to have enough to eat and enjoy good living standards, the Christian should be seeking opportunities that will benefit the Father's kingdom, in the light of these oil discoveries. We should begin to see oil and other commodities that produce wealth for a society as resources God has provided for the advancement of is Kingdom until Christ returns. Christians, particularly Ghanaian Christian engineers, economists, environmental scientists and of course politicians should realize that they are called to ensure that our natural resources are developed in true stewardship, not wantonly exploited for short term benefit.

We have a vested interest in ensuring that we do not repeat the mistakes we have made with the use of our gold, diamonds, timber, bauxite, etc., when it comes to this Oil discovery and we will gain nothing by sitting back and pessimistically predicting that this will end up being a "curse", based on past experience. We must be proactive at every stage of the process. I may not be called to be a direct activist in this regard but if I know Christians or even non-Christians who have that ability, should I not be supporting them? Is that not what John Newton did with William Wilberforce to end slavery?

Can one support a non Christian with an agenda that has eventual and even indirect positive implications for the spread of the gospel or am I too far on a limb on this one with my pragmatism; is this practical and most importantly, is it scriptural? - Alien Warrior

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