Synagogue of Mercy members threaten journalist, chief

BY: Michael Quaye
The church grounds being prepared for an evening service
The church grounds being prepared for an evening service

A group belonging to the now infamous Synagogue of Mercy Church at Nambeg in the Upper West Region yesterday afternoon turned aggressive towards a Metro TV journalist and the chief of the neighbouring town of Yagha when the group found them in the vicinity of the church.

The group even threatened the two persons with physical harm.

The group’s hostility followed a Daily Graphic report about minors abandoning school to pitch camp on the church premises.

The Metro TV reporter, Adams Musah, told the Daily Graphic that he was in the area taking shots of the church when one of the children saw him and raised an alarm. Subsequently, the group, which was loitering nearby, charged at him.

"I ran to the chief for cover and that was what saved me," he said.

The Chief of Yagha, Naa Namare Diedong II, said the church members, who also included some minors, stormed his palace thereafter and warned him to stay away and not to become involved in matters affecting the church.

Naa Diedong had lodged a complaint with the police at Jirapa and petitioned the municipal education directorate to take action on the matter.

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The group, made up of about 20 youth, believed that the chief of Yagha was the brain behind the news report aimed at damaging the image of the young church.

"They entered my palace in their numbers to warn me and were using very strong language," Naa Diedong told the Daily Graphic.

"If some palace elders had not come in just in time, I don't know what would have happened," he said.

He said at the peak of the tension in his palace, he called the personal phone lines of some policemen at Jirapa but the calls went unanswered.

Earlier, the Upper West Regional Office of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) had directed the Jirapa municipal office of the commission to move in with the police to arrest Pastor Charles Asongnuur and take custody of the minors who had abandoned school and home for the church.

Pastor Ansongnuur has been accused by some parents of indoctrinating their children into leaving school and harbouring them, even though they are minors.

The CHRAJ municipal officer is expected to undertake the mission of taking back the children with the municipal social welfare officer.

A Senior Investigator at the Upper West Regional office of CHRAJ, Mr Hakeem Suleman, told the Daily Graphic that his outfit had an obligation to save the children.

He said Pastor Ansongnuur would be interrogated over the circumstances under which the children went to live with him, as well as the conditions under which they were living in his care.

He said the Constitution of Ghana abhorred anything that would truncate or inhibit a child's education and, therefore, CHRAJ owed it a duty to save the children from their present situation.

The CHRAJ action is the first major reaction to the Daily Graphic's front page story of Monday, October 22 which broke the news of some children having abandoned school for the church.

The children are about 30, aged between 10 and 18 and are mostly primary school pupils and junior high school students of the Yagha MA Basic School in the Jirapa municipality.

Some parents have expressed surprise over the way children could decide to forfeit the opportunity of senior high school education, since they "do not need a certificate to go to Heaven".

Pastor Ansongnuur, 35, was trained as a teacher at the Jahan College of Education in Wa and taught at the Yagha MA Junior High School for four years and later transferred to a school in his home village, Nambeg.

He is said to have abandoned the teaching profession altogether in response to a pastoral calling.

The Headmaster of the Yagha MA JHS, Mr Joseph Kogro, said when Pastor Ansongnuur taught at the school some time ago, he had on many occasions taken to preaching and sometimes awkwardly assembling students, which attracted a caution.