By Catherine Ryan for the Accra Mail
The call and response volleyed back and forth between a man testifying about his recovery from a mysterious illness and the members of Zetaheal, a religion unique to Accra that strives to unite Christianity and Islam.
The roughly 300 people in attendance at Sunday’s service listened to the man’s story. Women knelt and touched their foreheads to the floor.
Songs punctuated the testimony, and men and women in white swayed and shook handkerchiefs to the beat of music belting from speakers throughout the spacious temple.
Zetaheal, which means “lean on God and he will save you,” began in 1975 when the prophetess Lehem received revelation from angels, according to a paper in the scholarly journal Exchange: Bulletin of Third World Christian Literature.
It aims to heal religious strife and includes aspects of Christianity and Islam. For example, practitioners use both the Bible and Koran, as well as their own sacred book, God With Us.
During the service, men sitting in pews stood up and filed forward for the communal rite of water-taking. Three or four at a time, they knelt with their cupped hands outstretched.
A man poured blessed water into their hands. They tipped their heads back, pouring every sacred drop down their throats.
They then ate a few pieces of chopped cola nuts, which signify inner strength, in memory of how the prophet Mohammed was sustained during battle.
Finally they took off their skullcaps and wiped their hands, faces, heads and necks with florida water to cleanse and purify their auras.
On the way back to the pews, a blind man paused. Grinning, he shook his hips and arms and danced to the song proclaiming thanks to God before another man led him back to his seat.
The service includes aspects that would be familiar to Christians and Muslims alike. “The division between Christians and Muslims which has been widened by worshipers is actually the work of Satan,” reads one passage of God With Us.
Zetaheal is not only focused on building a bridge between often-warring religions, though.
“Zetaheal is not a rigid religion,” said Fred Dokosi, an Accra resident who joined Zetaheal in 1981.
“It teaches about life, nature and oneness with the planet. We need that kind of harmony to make the world a better place.”
In addition to attending services on Fridays and Sundays, Dokosi volunteers in the temple gardens and at one of the church’s farms outside Accra.
Dokosi, who works in industrial design, also helped design the temple’s two white towers, which symbolize the two Abrahamic traditions.
Despite Zetaheal’s similarities to Islam and Christianity, differences set it apart. Members believe that Jesus’ crucifixion was not part of God’s plan but rather an evil act perpetrated out of envy, Dokosi explained.
They celebrate Christmas on 14 November and believe in karma and reincarnation. What’s more, they believe in continued revelation, as angels convey God’s messages through the prophetess Lehem.
At the end of Sunday’s service, adherents kneeled, recited the Lord’s prayer and prostrated themselves.
They then lined up, with the children at the front of the queue, and danced their way toward the rear of the temple.
Bare feet shuffled across the cool floor. Members paused to bow to the front of the temple at prescribed points. The joyous music lasted until the final person exited the temple into the manicured courtyard.
For practitioners of Zetaheal, the service was just another Sunday worshiping God in the best way they know how.
In a wider context, perhaps the morning was leading this city, nation and world one step closer to religious harmony.