“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one, directly affects all indirectly,” - Martin Luther King Jr.
In our country today, there are so many forms of injustice perpetrated against the poor, powerless and marginalised. Some of these injustices are rape, defilement, human trafficking, forced labour, domestic abuse, unfair treatment of employees, abuse of power, corruption, commercial sexual exploitation, unfair convictions, ethnic and religious discrimination.
On a daily basis, people are taken advantage of by those who have power over them. The poor and weak in our midst are disregarded. Most of us do not care about them and their needs, even if we have the capacity to assist them. Most people only provide assistance when they anticipate personal benefits in return. These injustices can be found in churches, corporate organisations, schools, homes, and communities.
Many people are suffering and dying today because of injustices. People have become homeless, bedridden, unemployed, sick, illiterate, unproductive, indebted and physically challenged as a direct result of people with power exploiting them. Many are perishing in our prisons today because they have been wrongfully accused and do not have the means to defend themselves through the law courts.
Unfortunately, some of our state institutions that have the legally mandated responsibility of protecting the poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged from violence and injustice are often not proactive, and sometimes look unconcerned. In some cases, these institutions actually protect and shield the oppressor from facing justice. Why? Because these oppressors have the power to influence decisions in their favour.
This is even worse in smaller communities or villages where the word of the chief and his elders is final in matters of violence and justice. It is always those with power and wealth that have their way because they can easily influence the chiefs and his elders.
A few days ago, Joy FM broke a heart-breaking story about a 4-year old girl who was allegedly defiled by a man. In that story, when the mother reported the case to the chief of the village, the chief declared the alleged suspect to be innocent of the crime after consulting with their ‘gods’.
Unfortunately, the Ghana Police Service has not been very proactive in moving swiftly to bring justice on the matter as expected. This is no different from some of the state institutions responsible for providing psycho-social support and rehabilitation for the little girl and her mother. If public pressure is not brought to bear, this woman and her defiled daughter will not receive justice and the necessary rehabilitative support.
But, just imagine, if this had happened to the daughter of an influential person or a minister of state. A swift arrest and investigation would have been carried out immediately. Most likely, high government officials would have visited the victim and made their usual public pronouncement about the matter. In fact, most media houses would have given it overwhelming prominence.
However, because it has happened to someone who does not have influence, power and the means to seek justice, there is no swift response. This matter would not have received any bit of attention if Joy FM had not reported the matter and done thorough follow-ups on it.
This story is just a drop in the ocean of the many injustices in Ghana. There are cases where children are sold for a pittance of GH300 into child slavery on the Volta Lake. Most of these of children are between the ages of 6 and 15. They are denied education, healthcare, leisure, nutritional meals, decent clothing and sleep. These trafficked children, often deformed and malnourished, live at the mercy of their boat masters with their future looking bleak. Some of these children perish through violent abuse and sometimes drown in the lake. There are thousands of children that have been trafficked onto the lake for cheap labour. Most of the victims of abuse do not have access to the protection of the law because they are poor, uneducated, unconnected, and vulnerable.
It is obvious that people with power and influence are treated differently than those who are weak and poor. In our churches, those with power and wealth are given preferential treatment. Those who are poor, weak, and disadvantaged are not given the attention and respect they deserve. We have come to a situation where only those with huge financial contributions to the church are dignified and included in matters of prestige and honour, while the church neglects the poor and vulnerable. Most of our churches have failed to prioritise the needs of the poor and vulnerable. Most churches do not have social intervention programmes to safeguard and help the poor to thrive and come out of poverty. The bitter truth is that instead of providing a community of safety and support for them, the poor are rather exploited – the little they have is taken away from them in the name of prophecy, miracles, breakthroughs and financial prosperity.
This can also be said with our corporate organisations. Those within management are given special treatment. The best incentives and benefits are always given to the top leadership first before it reaches those beneath the hierarchy. Sometimes those beneath the leadership do not get to benefit at all. People have been wrongfully treated, dismissed and denied of their emolument because they are weak and do not have a voice.
It is this same culture of injustice that has prevented our leaders from giving the needed attention to our special institutions such as the schools for the blind and deaf, among others. Virtually, all facilities needed by the vulnerable and poor to live dignified lives are massively underfunded to the point of making them totally ineffective. Indeed, even resources that are allocated are often “diverted” and the facilities meant to help them are sometimes not designed to fully benefit them.
As a country, we must learn to be collectively responsive and concerned about the poor, weak, disadvantaged and vulnerable. We must carry them along in our development processes and be passionate about their needs and livelihoods.
We must redefine what it means to be successful. We must change the narrative that success is about how much money we have, how popular we are, and what position we occupy. Instead, we must yearn for a success measured in how much positive impact we are making in our community, in our organisation and in our beloved Ghana, especially in the lives of the vulnerable, poor, marginalised and weak.
For at the end of the day, this is how the King of Kings will judge us all, not by how much money we earned or what kind of car we drove, but by what we did for the “least of these, my brethren” (Matthew 25:40, 45).
I do not believe we can move forward as a country by leaving half the country behind. We either march forward together, or we will wallow in poverty and despair together. The choice is ours!
"...the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped."
~Last Speech of Hubert H. Humphrey.