About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Ghanaians love Obama. Second, there is a part of them, and I didn’t know how potent that part might be – that will find any opportunity to talk about politics with you. And third, they are unconditionally and irrevocably in love with God (If you understood this reference, I love you). Going into my first day at my internship, I awaited the moment that any of my colleagues to start a political or religious conversation.
Amidst the silence, my supervisor Derick asked me about the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage in America. A series of questions regarding businesses’ and churches’ rights to turn gays away followed. I wasn’t sure where the conversation would lead to, but I was pleasantly surprised.
I’ve never engaged in thorough conversations about gay marriage, because I have never seen it as a problem. I’ve lived in liberal environments most of my life – the topic itself isn’t even an issue. Occasionally, I’ll find myself faced with someone who wants to tell me my belief is wrong, in which I will walk away from this “conversation.” I will listen to someone with different beliefs, but only if it will result in a conversation and not a scolding or an argument.
Over 70% of Ghanaians consider themselves Christians, including Derick. He does believe it is a sin, but does not think any lesser of a gay person. At this point, he brings up that polygamy is legal in Ghana. If Ghanaians get married or engage in a civil union, polygamy is not allowed. However, Ghanaians can have a traditional marriage and be recognized under the local government, thus not limiting the number of wives a man can have. Derick told me most Ghanaians treat polygamists like any other person, but shun a gay person because they deem homosexuality a higher sin.
The punishment for engaging in homosexual acts is up to 25 years imprisonment in Ghana. To further explain Ghana’s conservative nature, many of the other members of the group came home from their internship to find out their first assignment was to write about the Supreme Court’s ruling in agreement with their conservative colleagues. One of my friends has to write about the issue using her boss’ text messages calling homosexuality an abomination as sources.
It is Derick’s Christian belief that all men are created equal, no one has the right to condemn anyone, and it is our job to love. As a Christian, he believes it is hypocritical to think lesser of a person, because all sins are sins – there are no levels of sins. People say they are open-minded, but are often quick to close their minds once someone approaches them with opinions different from theirs. I remember Derick said, “To correct and to condemn are not synonymous.” I loved this.
I appreciated this conversation with Derick. From my observation, Ghanaian’s are kind-hearted, good-natured, and loving people. You can only imagine my shock when I heard about these hateful comments.
It was the first constructive conversation on the topic in which I exchanged opinions with someone and they were willing to listen. I am lucky to work with someone who is willing to understand and put aside differences in order to learn. I opened my ears to Derick, and I learned a little bit more about him and the Christian beliefs. For that, I am thankful.
People are meant to have and learn from conversation in order to gain knowledge and new perspectives about themselves and the world around them. I am grateful to have this opportunity to immerse myself in an unfamiliar culture, in which I learn things that help better me as a human.