News24

Church music sparks attack

2001-05-13 19:48

Accra - Youths from Ghana's Ga ethnic group on Sunday attacked a church in Accra for defying a one-month ban on loud music and drums imposed by elders of the animist community.

Police said "several" Ga youth attacked the Christ Apostolic Church in Accra's Osu district during a worship service attended by some 2 000 people.

They smashed five cars parked on the premises, threw stones at windows and fought with the congregation. Fifteen riot policemen were deployed to prevent the violence from spreading.

The acting chairman of the church, Reverend Annor Yeboah, said: "We were worshipping when a lot of stones were thrown. They hit some of our members who were injured, and church windows were broken."

Police made several arrests, and five worshippers were taken to hospital.

On Monday, a council of Ga elders, comprising priests, priestesses and chieftains, had outlawed "the beating of drums" and other loud music for a month to mark their main annual festival, Homowo.

Homowo, according to Ga legend, is a period of silent prayer that is meant to bring rain and a bountiful harvests.

The Ga, who comprise about 10 percent of Ghana's 20 million people, are centered in Accra, the Ghanaian capital.

This year's festivities have become controversial because unlike last year, the Ga Traditional Council -- or body of elders -- said the ban would be strictly implemented, especially in Accra.

Last year, the Council overlooked drumming in churches, where Sunday prayers are commonly interspersed with loud music and percussion.

The Christ Apostolic Church's Yebboah remained defiant on Sunday after the attack.

"We say 'no' to the ban. It is our constitutional right to worship freely, and we will not let any group block it."

A Ga youth who had attacked the church said: "All that we are asking churches to do is to respect our customs."

The month-long ban also provoked tensions in Accra in 1999, leading to clashes between supporters of the Ga Council and Christians who wanted to continue playing drums in church.

About 20 people were injured, church property was vandalised and cars were destroyed in the violence.