Proposed Founders Day is based on historical fiction

As usual, very well written and argued addition to the debate. Maybe the issue will never be resolved but that would be a real shame – countries must move forward together, nations must not be polarised and states will attain maturity. A principled approach is needed at all times and rewriting of history serves no purpose at all. The history of a nation is what happened not what one would have wished to have happened.

ekownelson

Ekow Nelson

Last week the President sought to put the obsessive debate raging over the placement of the apostrophe in ‘Founders Day’ to rest. And he did so, like his immediate two predecessors, by authorising 21st September as a public holiday in honour of Ghana’s first Prime Minister and President while at the same time indicating his intention to seek legislation to declare August 4th Founders Day to commemorate the founding of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) in 1947.

Ghana already has a Founders Day called 6th March 1957 when the country came into being, so one wonders why we need another one. Far from settling the issue, this latter move runs the risk of reinforcing the perception that the President and his henchmen are pre-occupied with revising Ghana’s history to bolster the reputation of Dr JB Danquah.

Macaulay revisited

In his contribution to the debate on…

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Failed UGCC deserves no honour

We can debate who started the struggle for independence but we can’t dispute who achieved it. Surely, that alone should put this matter to rest.

ekownelson

Ekow Nelson

Last Friday the organisers of Ghana@60 commemorated the founding of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) in Saltpond, positioning it as an overlooked significant national event. The founding of a political party with no notable accomplishments is being touted as Ghana’s Birthday along with, or perhaps, instead of, March 6th, 1957. Sadly, the current President lent the authority of his office to a commemorative farce that flies in the face of historical truth.

False starts with no accomplishments
It is argued that the founding of the UGCC represents the conception of Ghana’s independence struggle. But is it? When exactly did the anti-colonial struggle begin? It certainly is not 4th August 1947. Prior to that there was the Aborigines Rights Protection Society and the National Congress of British West Africa, preceded by the Fante Confederacy and many others. As Professor Emmanuel Kwaku Senah has argued, “national histories do not…

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The UGCC was a colossal failure – Ekow Nelson

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I  am struggling to see what is being celebrated here. The UGCC was formed in Aug 1947. Nkrumah joined as SG four months later. As a colonial office dispatch observed, prior  to Nkrumah’s arrival in December of that year the movement’s main supporters were “in the large coastal towns of Accra, Saltpond, Cape Cost, Sekondi and Kibi the home of Dr Danquah”. Aiken Watson of the eponymously named commission he chaired conceded that the UGCC did not get down to business until Nkrumah arrived.

The post war austerity boycotts and exservicemen changed the course of history. The infamous shooting of ex servicemen who sought only to present a petition to the Governor’s office did not include UGCC officers or members. While Nkrumah and Dr Danquah had met members of the legion the day before to help with drafts, the UGCC was not involved in the march and in fact disavowed the riots that broke out following the unlawful murders of three ex-service  men; they blamed it all on Nkrumah. William Ofori Atta and Obetsebi Lamptey ransacked his apartments looking for incriminating material to use against him.

But it WAS precisely these riots that led to the arrest of key UGCC officers (earning them the dubious sobriquet of the Big Six) and the establishment of the Watson Commission which recommended the appointment of a Constitutional Committee to draft a new constitution to pave the way to self government.

The Coussey Committee included UGCC officers who repudiated the riots that created the circumstances for their membership and many sections of society except Nkrumah (blamed for the riots that led to the Committee’s establishment) and Trades Unionists. Even with the scales tipped in their favour, the UGCC managed to botch the elections organised under the auspices of the constitution they drafted and gerrymandered rules they defined and lost in a landslide to the CPP. And with that, they passed on to Nkrumah, who they excluded from the Committee, the mantle of carrying through the programme for self government. That was momentous! It is probably THE day worth celebrating : when Dr.  Danquah’s command of Gold Coast politics ended and Nkrumah’s took off.

So what exactly are we celebrating? What was the singular contribution of the UGCC to an independence struggle they did not trigger? The 1951 constitution? which prominent members among them  (Ofori Atta and Dr Danquah included) and Nkrumah described as “bogus and fraudulent”?

The UGCC were not the handmaidens of our independence. They had no role in the events that caused the British to initiate the process of self-government with the establishment of the Coussey Committee – Nii Kwabena Bone, his boycotters and the ex service men did.

They could not win the first All-African general elections whose rules they wrote and they ceased to exist after the 1951 elections and reconstituted themselves into various opposition parties whose raison d’être was to stop Nkrumah from leading Ghana to independence.

This is a celebration of a party with no singular political achievement or historical contribution!

Here is the crux: There is a dangerous historical conflation here; of projecting Dr Danquah and the UGCC as one. Dr. Danquah’s contribution to the anticolonial struggle is immense and it predated the UGCC by more than a decade. An intellectual colossus of all time, he paved the way for Nkrumah and those that came later. But Dr Danquah’s achievements are not the same as those of the UGCC. In fact by the time of the establishment of the UGCC Dr. Danquah had peaked. His best and most productive years were prior to that.

I have no qualms about celebrating Dr Danquah’s contribution. It has meaning. The celebration of the non-performing UGCC with no singular political achievement makes no historical sense. To the extent that the UGCC achieved anything it was their  invitation of Nkrumah to head the party’s secretariat which together with the boycotts and riots altered our history. But that too was Dr Danquah’s (and Ako Adjei’s) achievement – perhaps his final and crowing glory.

In battle, business and in politics, sometimes the best  and most transformative decisions are in the choice of personnel. The choice of Nkrumah was the finest decision Dr Danquah made – it gave finality to his life’s work.

Danquah, Kwame Nkrumah wa yer wo den? – Ade Sawyerr

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Danquah, Kwame Nkrumah wa yer wo den? – Ade Sawyerr

The Ghana@60 team came over to England in May 2017 to talk about the 60 glorious years of our independence won for us by Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah on the 6th of March 1957.

They treated us to a very well-made film by a charming young man ‘From Gold Coast to Ghana’, that had been premiered in Accra 2 days before the celebration of our 6oth birthday to some acclaim but also to a lot of controversies.  Incidentally, I had written a piece with the same title for our national black newspaper in the UK, the Voice – http://www.voice-online.co.uk/article/gold-coast-ghana

So I thought great! Let me listen to this young man and watch his film which must be a bold attempt to depict our history from his perspective, a different light or angle that I may have missed. In his introduction to the film he talked about how our unreconciled history may have affected our development and gave examples of how in places such as the West, most of the contributors to the founding of the nation had been given their due place, recognised and adequately celebrated.  The examples from Nigeria and South Africa were not very convincing, indeed Oliver Thambo had always been the head of the African National Congress and there was no question or debate about that except that because of the incarceration of Mandela for a very long time he had become the international symbol in the fight against apartheid.

But then in the main introduction for the event, I heard quotations from Danquah flowing all over the place and should have realised that something was going on when South Africa was mentioned in relation to Ghana.  What came to mind was Busia’s feeble attempt for dialogue with South Africa and then I remembered that Kufuor had set up a National Reconciliation Commission copying from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa – so in truth our history had been reconciled already!

Paul Adom-Otchere said that his film was about the various and different constitutions of our land so I thought that this was going to be interesting for me and I must suspend judgement so that I would enjoy what this film is all about.

And then the film started and I started noticing several things in the script.  Achimota School and there the names of the mothers of President Nana Addo and the other flagbearer aspirant Kyeremanten came up.  Aggrey was celebrated all right as was Fraser.  The grandees of the Aborigines Rights Protection Society were recognised and celebrated in the film and there was a brief mention of the National Council of British West Africa.

Suddenly from nowhere appeared JB Danquah, framed as one of the leading lights of NCBWA, who was to be the bridge between the past and the future of Ghana looming large in the rest of the narrative and central to the transition between Gold Coast and Ghana.  Sarah Grant was excellent in her account of the events and very balanced but from that point came justification after justification of the role of Danquah had played in our independence including the laughable suggestion that if Nkrumah had allowed his motion of destiny to have been amended our independence would have happened in 1954 instead of 1957.

Of course, Danquah did play a role in our independence, but more as a leader of sorts of the opposition.  He has been honourably rewarded with a Circle as has Obetsebi Lamptey and Ako Adjei with an underpass, maybe the others in the Big Six now need to be celebrated: Akufo Addo pere, and Paa Willie must also have things named after them so that all the Big Six would have been eventually recognised.

There was mention of Sgt Adjetey, Lance Corporal Attipoe and Private Odartey Lamptey.

Then there was a map of Ghana and how Danquah was supposed to have persuaded the Asantehene about Ashanti being part of the nation. But hear this, folks – if Danquah was that persuasive in Ashanti how come that in the 1951 election, the UGCC his party did not sweep that Ashanti Region but ended up with a single seat courtesy of an electoral college.  And here was I wondering why the role of the NLM, who the renamed Ghana Congress Party begged to merge with was not given the coverage they deserved in this film.

There certainly was something really surreal about this film – it was as if all the lofty pronouncements about an attempt at reconciling our history, so that the nation would move on,  had been jettisoned under another agenda.  This agenda was to rehabilitate Danquah who was never a leader of our country and who despite his academic brilliance and hard work never achieved the accolade that he went by – the doyen of Ghana politics, a title that he reminded Nkrumah of, in his letter of congratulations on our independence.

It is not everyone who is successful in politics, it is not everyone who is destined to be a leader of the country that they fought for, not all of us will attain the political heights that others do.  That is the fact of life and no amount or attempt to rehabilitate them will let history be any kinder to them.

The film in my view air-brushed out some of the more important people of our story of independence.  No mention of Gbedemah and Botsio who ensured Nkrumah’s victory at a time that he was in prison. No mention of the other active players Dombo no, Apaloo, nada, Antor, nary a mention, Bankole Awoonor Renner, nothing.  Ayeke did not feature and these were all leaders of their parties at independence.

I was incredulous, you cannot talk about the history of Ghana without mentioning a political giant like Baffour Osei Akoto who caused the CPP to split in Ashanti and went on to form the formidable NLM or Matemeho.

And truly in discussing our independence, if you can mention, the Big Six, incidental heroes, three of whom the film reminded us were related to president Akufo Addo fils, you cannot fail to mention the central figure of the time – Theodore Taylor in private life but better known as Nii Kwabena Bonne Nii Kwabena Bonne III, Osu Alata Mantse, also Nana Owusu Akenten III, Oyokohene of Techiman, Ashanti.  This man who took on the AWAM and initiated the boycott of the English merchants that coincided with the shooting and the riots certainly deserves a mention in the story of our independence even if the story is based on constitutions of our country.

After watching this film, I just thought that I needed to comment on how revisionist this is and how the current president has bought into this attempt to rehabilitee a fine scholar who was never destined to be the leader of our country.  If this film is a state or party sponsored rewrite of our history, then i can say that our history will never be reconciled.  Fairy tales and  ‘Tsier Ananu stories will not satisfy our youth in their quest for the story our independence if Nkrumah is cast as an incidental character with Danquah as the central figure.

We wish the president well in his mobilisation of the country for the future and in his vision of Ghana beyond aid, but as for his version of history – it has been rejected not only by the youth but by most of us senior citizens.

Let us work together to fix the country let us use our resourcefulness to transform our resources into wealth for future Ghanaians and beyond so that President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo will leave an enduring legacy that we will all be proud of.

But frankly, this revision is not going to go down well. As Sarah Grant sang in the film

Danquah, Nkrumah wa yer wo den?

Ade Sawyer is an associate at community engagement and business development consultancy Equinox Consulting and comments on social, political and community development issues. He can be reached at www.equinoxconsulting.net or at jwasawyerr@gmail.com

 

Jennifer Sara Awula Adjiko Abbey nee Hansen – Sleep well my Soul Sister

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Jennifer Sara Awula Adjiko Abbey nee Hansen – Sleep well my Soul Sister

27 Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God?
28 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.
29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
31 but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Isaiah 40:27-31

I am still struggling to come to terms with my shock over the passing of this beautiful, confident and virtuous lady who I feel privileged to have known over the years.  She was first introduced to me by a relative, Bob, who was totally besotted with her and had put her on the pedestal she deserved

Adjiko became my soul sister from then on and was supportive of my mission whenever I visited at her mother’s house.  I was also a frequent visitor to the house at Akwashong Link that Bob shared with his mate Kwame Akoto and their ‘housemaster’ Mr. Joseph Adama.  Those were happy days talking about any and every issue and she expressed her views to us ‘hustlers’ trying to get a foot on the ladder of independent life, providing intellectual dimensions to our discussions. Her views were refreshingly innocent.

She and Bob were married after a fairy tale courtship that included a sojourn in England. Their son Adotey was born in Ghana and soon after that the family moved to Liberia, the start of many more moves as her husband pursued his career.

Because we lived on different continents we saw each other infrequently but Adjiko and I kept in touch by telephone and email, most of these calls just to catch up and reminiscence about the good old days.  I was full of admiration for her determination to challenge herself and go back to college to undertake a Master’s degree despite having a young son in tow. This was after many years as a teacher in several countries around Africa.

A pattern developed to our conversations, an indication that ‘the troubles’ as I called them could not be resolved.  She would vent her frustrations and I would listen, then ask her about her career and her plans for the future and always assured her that all would be well. We would talk about almost everything.  Whenever I sent her an article I had written for comment, she would give me her honest feedback thereby giving me an opportunity to write back or call to talk about all sorts of things.

Years ago, she called and asked me to find her son for her. I was taken aback because he was somewhere in Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso and I was in London.  This was a tall order as I had no idea how I was going to be able to do what she was asking as I had never been to that country. Nevertheless, I assured her that I would do my best to honour my promise to find the young man.  I persevered and after numerous efforts armed with a telephone number, the young man was eventually found. Adjiko was very grateful and relieved that she now knew where her son was, he was safe and sound.

How was I to know that our last conversation about a month ago was an obvious farewell? We spoke for over two hours and it was not tittle tattle at all.  We discussed our Ga and Ghanaian culture and about her mixed roots and heritage; it was a deep exposition of knowledge about the family that had been passed on to her. We talked about why she still valued maintaining family ties, wondering how we can transfer those values down to our children despite having chosen a life as a near recluse herself.  She also talked about pining for her grandchildren one of whom she had never seen because they were far away in Canada. She told me how happy it would make her if the waving of a magic wand would grant her greatest wish of seeing both grandchildren one day. But alas, it was not to be!

The discussion was tinged with nostalgia, religiosity, emotions.  She was deep and I sensed that there was some relief when I assured her that I was in contact with her son and that I would do all in my power to support and guide him.  Adjiko and I did not speak again but continued to exchange texts on Facebook, WhatsApp and the social media that some of us are now slaves to.

I now realise that as a mere mortal what I said were just words and that I would never be able to achieve what I hoped I could; making everything right in this word.

All I know is that you Awula Adjiko have gone to a better place and your memory will forever be cherished by all those you met in this life.

Sleep well elegant majestic lady that I once knew, sleep well my soul sister.

From the older brother that you claim you always wanted but never had

Ade Sawyerr

London, June 2017

 

Nii Armah Josiah Aryeh: Fare thee well valiant warrior for the GaDangme Cause – Ade Sawyerr

 

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My friend, Nii Armah Josiah Aryeh, has returned to the ancestors, too soon, and we mere mortals are left to bear the pain of losing him.  In his relatively short life, he did a lot to inspire numerous Gadangme people on a path of consciousness. He provided the opportunity for like-minded people to rally behind a cause of projecting, yet again, the unique position of Ga people in nation building.  But he will be better remembered as a politician, who rose to high office within a political party through his force of ideas and his competence, but who could not sustain his position because of political intrigue.

Though Nii Armah proved adept at handling press conferences and gave many television and radio interviews, he was perhaps more comfortable when drafting these documents, probably because he was an academic. He wanted to be viewed as more than just another ordinary politician.

I got to know Nii Armah in the mid-1990s when he had just completed his PhD study in Law.  He had accompanied a friend of his, Robert Trebi Asafoatse, to visit my good friend Joshua Nii Attoh Quarshie.  Nii Attoh, who had been instrumental in the setting up of Gadangme Nikasemo Asafo, telephoned me and suggested that I meet with this young man who had refreshing ideas and fire in his belly, for the projection of Ga culture within an urbanised Accra, the capital of Ghana.

I invited him to join us at the monthly meeting, the start of a fruitful association that ended up in his becoming secretary of the organisation, for a brief period.  Our association continued with the formation of the GaDangme Foundation in London and resulted in other important developments in the Gadangme Diaspora that gave a voice to the GaDangme Council in Ghana. He had been involved in other Ghanaian groups such as the Black Stars for the World Cup and Gadangme Think Tank which incidentally included luminaries such as Numo Nortse Amartey, Nii Nortei Omaboe, Albert Johnson, Sally Baffour, Dr Jo Blankson who became the Ga Mantse King Tackie Tawiah III and one of the present Ga Mantse, Nii Adama Latse II.  He was also associated with some Ghanaian Socialist Group and with the Liberated Nkrumaist Brigade in London

Though our discussions were about how to move our organisation forward to achieve our goal of influencing the psyche of the typical cosmopolitan and detribalized Gadangme from a civil society perspective, they always took a political framework.  We discussed the importance and achievements of the likes of AW Kojo Thompson, Solo Odamtten, FV Nanka-Bruce, Tommy Hutton-Mills, Obetsebi Lamptey whose legacy had been largely forgotten and observed how the likes of Tawia Adamafio, Sony Provencal, EC Quaye, Paul Tagoe, Ako Ajei, Kwatelai Quartey, Boi Doku had galvanised the Ga into national participative politics.  It was clear that he had an interest in politics and felt that he could play a useful role in shaping the destiny of Ghana.

But our immediate task remained trying to get the GaDangme polity interested in civil society activity that will  push them to contribute to and participate in regenerating the urban community with the purpose of lifting them out of poverty.  We considered several issues: the language under threat because of the onslaught of in-migration, the culture under assault from the charismatic churches, our institution of chieftaincy convoluted because of a lack of a written constitution and decided that perhaps the best hook would be to rekindle an interest in the history of the Ga people.  That was his forte because he had reviewed several documents during his doctoral dissertation and he still had access to the libraries.

This period coincided with the decision to rehabilitate the burial grounds of King Tackie Tawiah I in Accra. A group of us set up the King Tackie Tawiah Memorial Trust that together with the Union of GaDangme Associations, eventually metamorphosed into the Gadangme Foundation.  Nii Armah offered to research the history of the Gadangme people with an emphasis on the leadership of King Tackie Tawiah during peace time.  The high point of The King Tackie Tawiah Memorial lectures in July 1997, was that the prestigious Brunei Theatre at the School of Oriental and African Studies was filled to the brim for each of the three lectures and the content received resounding acclaim from the large mass of Gadangme and other people who attended.

I was grateful to Nii Amarh when he actively supported my candidacy to be chairman of Ghana Union London, helping to organise and recruit several members and advising on an agenda for action after the elections.  I, in turn, had introduced him to several of my older friends in Ghana who would assist him both in his career in the law and in his involvement with the Gadangme Council.

A year later Nii Armah left London to take up an appointment as a senior lecturer in law at the University of Ghana.  Nii Armah continued with the sterling work when he returned to Ghana; organising within the GaDangme community, helping to energise the Gadangme Council with the lectures that he delivered, and assisting with outreach work amongst the GaDangme community.   He also ended up as the liaison with the chiefs and elders.   He started to help write that constitution of the Ga people which he felt, left unwritten, had been the cause of much of the disputes amongst chiefs and families owning land.  He attributed these disputes to the disunity and total breakdown of a system of governance that had left our traditional rulers at the mercy of politicians and civil servants at large, who were controlling the lands that had become the main source of income for our chiefs.

The pull of politics was probably too strong for him and he left the Gadangme Council without achieving the goal of uniting the Chiefs with the people.   He himself could not win the seat he contested though eventually by dint of hard work and merit he rose to become General Secretary of the National Democratic Congress as they went into opposition.  He was not treated very well by his party and became mired in some controversy betrayed by friends and close allies within the party and within the wider political community.

In a perverse sense though we had often discussed the fate of Ga politicians such as Ako Adjei and Tawiah Adamafio and Owula Kojo Thompson, who had climbed high but ended up being marginalised by their own parties, he did not escape that fate despite his many celebrated press conferences that he organised to propagate the social democracy ideology of his party.

Most thought that he had left politics behind to concentrate on his academic career. He had such a sharp and incisive brain with attention to detail, and he was thorough as a researcher. He wrote well and was an ardent and persuasive orator but he was impatient with those who did not readily see his point of view and who maintained other positions.

His autobiography ‘Inside Ghana’s democracy’ largely sought to justify the events of his departure from the NDC but he also wrote some academic books – ‘Property Law of Ghana’ and another ‘Islamic Customary Law in Ghana’ as well as the ‘Law of Wills in Ghana’ that he autographed for me.

But Nii Armah was not done with politics completely, and he bounced back as Chairman of the breakaway National Democratic Party led by Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings and persisted in trying to get back into the party from which they had deserted.  He had to give up that position when his health started failing him early last year.

We have lost him too early, he had a lot to offer the people of Ghana and he was diligent in the causes that he championed, but perhaps unable to form the necessary alliances to see these to fruition and to maintain a dispassionate perspective.  He certainly was ahead of his time considering some of the innovative strategies that he espoused as an activist for the Gadangme concern.

The caucus of the Gadangme community in London will certainly miss you and the legacy you leave – your unpublished King Tackie Tawiah Memorial Lectures will find their way to a blog in your memory.

May your soul rest in perfect peace in the Lord

Anyemi Nii Armah, yaa wo ojogbann

Ade Sawyerr

London June 2017

 

Explaining Christianity – a continuing journey by Ade Sawyerr

Explaining Christianity – a continuing journey by Ade Sawyerr

“Why do you worry when your Lord never sleeps…..prayer for forgiveness, should be our guiding staff, and we will sing Alleluia and never never lose our way!”

Ramblers International Dance Band

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Two holiday periods are celebrated by most Christians across the world: Christmas and Easter. Christmas is a period of good cheer and goodwill amongst men and has been widely accepted by both the secular and religious world as a time for festivities. People go on shopping sprees, exchange cards, gifts and greetings as we usher in a New Year that we wish will be filled with hope and prosperity. It also evokes debates amongst the various sects on the true meaning of the Advent and whether indeed the date chosen is correct or merely a convenient one. This long period of nourishment of the body, soul, and spirit always gives way to Easter and its more profound symbol of a Christ who lived a life of example and teaching but who was tortured and crucified and yet rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven.

These festivals present an opportunity to reflect on various interesting schools of thought surrounding Christianity. So, after these festivals, I felt that after several years celebrating these holidays it is time for me to consider how I might explain why I profess and attest to Christianity in the hope that those with a deeper knowledge of this faith will share with me their understanding and help strengthen mine.

Born and nurtured within a Christian family, I was baptised an Anglican and dutifully followed my grandmother to church at St. Mary’s till I was old enough to follow my older siblings to Sunday School at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Accra, to learn about Jesus Christ and the other stories of the Bible. For a while, I lived with my uncle Mr. Mensah, who led the daily devotion for the whole household at the crack of dawn. I also had the opportunity to attend Brother Lawson’s ‘The Lord is There Temple’ at Korle Gonno the Apostolic sect to which he belonged at the time. When we moved to Accra New Town, because there was no Anglican church in the area, I attended the Presbyterian Church.

In secondary school, I spent my Quiet Time reading the Bible, especially the compelling stories of the Old Testament: the story of the creation, God’s relationship with man, the books of the Judges, Kings, and Prophets. These stories were about how living a righteous life would lead mankind to prosperity and yet despite those teachings, man broke all the covenants with God and strayed onto the path of sin that always ended in adversity and destruction.

Continue reading “Explaining Christianity – a continuing journey by Ade Sawyerr”