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Why Abuses Have Persisted From Exorcism In Many African Pentecostal Circles—Apostle Onyinah



Professor Opoku Onyinah

One of Ghana’s most eminent cleric and leading religious scholar, Apostle Professor Opoku Onyinah has given reasons for the growing cases of abuses emanating from exorcism in many Pentecostal churches in Africa.

While condemning these abuses, he however called for concerted efforts and proper orientation for Christians in order to stem the worrying trend.

Professor Opoku Onyinah

Apostle Professor Opoku Onyinah

Onyinah’s calls gained traction while featuring as the guest interviewee during the last edition of the Toyin Falola Interview Series which was streamed across several social media platforms, television and radio stations in many parts of Africa and beyond.

The Toyin Falola Interviews has grown an enviable reputation of interrogating some of Africa’s greatest scholars, intellectuals and religious and cultural leaders on matters that affect the continent and also its extension in the diaspora.

Professor Falola led the panel which was made up of Nimi Wariboko, Professor of Social Ethics; Professor Abimbola Adelakun (an associate professor, Department of African and African Diaspora Studies, University of Texas at Austin; and Professor Karen Lauterbach, associate professor and director at the Centre of African Studies, University of Copenhagen.

With the theme on Pentecostalism in Africa, Onyinah (who is the immediate past chairman of the Church of Pentecost, the largest Pentecostal denomination in Ghana, with branches in over 150 countries; he is a former president of Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council; he is the president of the Bible Society of Ghana; he is the chairman of the Board of Directors, National Cathedral of Ghana) stated that abuses have persisted due to lack of knowledge and in some instances for pecuniary gains.

According to him, “It is the issue of abuse that got me researching into witchcraft and exorcism. There are many abuses within the Pentecostal system. Many people have been accused of being witches and demon-possessed when in actual fact they were not. What I was saying that should not be pushed into the periphery is that I wanted what I consider as Pentecostal spirituality. There should not be a formal way of service. There are many pastors who get into deliverance of church members and later find out that this people were not even possessed in the first place. You have to examine the situation, find physical or scientific causes, before you can come to the conclusion that this person is really demon-possessed, and then try to exorcise the person. There are times that counseling can work but if you think that counseling won’t work after other examinations, you should not pray for the person as though the person were possessed.

“It is wrong for religious leaders to take advantage of the people’s vulnerabilities, and then draw money from them. We must teach the people. There is a proverb in Ghana that the things that we see are those things that we carry into our dreams. We must not major on those things. We must not condemn people by accusing them of witchcraft in order to give way to charlatans to draw money from them.”

Earlier in the interaction, he noted that “We believe in miracles as Pentecostals. We don’t believe in pushing people when performing miracles or deliverances. Sometimes you can speak. We also don’t like the tendency where people force or put others on fasting. Some say that ‘before you can receive what God wants to give to you, you have to fast a certain number of days.’ These things can be considered as abuse because sometimes some people can even tell you that ‘we want dry fasting; don’t drink water for three days.’ We don’t encourage such things. If pastors are pushing you beyond your limits, you should know that they are looking for something else. When Jesus was talking about fasting and prayer, he was not talking about the victim who needed to fast but the pastor or ‘deliverer’ as the case may be. The pastor or evangelist needs to prepare himself to cast out the demon. When it comes to exorcism, it is the exorcist who fasts and prays, not the one who is already afflicted by the demon. However this does not mean that you cannot recommend to people to fast. You cannot tell people that unless they fast, God won’t hear them.

“When it comes to the excesses of pastors or religious leaders, God has given us commonsense. If you realize that someone is pushing you beyond commonsense, you should know. Every Christian should know the Bible; perhaps our quest for miracles blinds us. Once you appear to be reasonable, they will say that you don’t believe in the power of God. We must educate our people and teach them to understand the position and identity of a Christian. With the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council, we cannot force certain things on the government. Our governments too have to come in. Governments can use their instruments to curb religious excesses and abuses. We have challenges as religious leaders too. It is also an abuse when they use the name of God or the Holy Spirit to perpetuate certain unlawful acts. When it came to the council at Jerusalem, the apostles and elders gathered together but here you will see many Pentecostal leaders claiming that they are above everything.”

He equally noted that Pentecostal leadership and followership have a duty to impact governance in Africa for good.

“Pentecostals believe in the power of God. It has been the belief of many Pentecostals that so far as we have Christian leaders in politics, they will be able to transform society. And there is nothing wrong with that belief. Whether you are a Christian or not, leadership is very important. It is not just about being a Pentecostal but being a leader. When it comes to politics, the president or the cabinet members should be people who have leadership abilities and be backed as Christians by God’s spirit, and then there will be performance. Otherwise you can be a very good Pentecostal, but if you are not a leader, you will fumble.

“The greatest challenge for African Christian leaders is for us to be able to disciple our members to the point that they are able to impact every sphere of society. You can shine where you are. Within government, the Christians there should be so disciplined that they will not take bribes,” he said.

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