By Jesse Masai
The Internal Province of Ghana is investigating a priest for kissing three female students on the lips in a public ceremony at St. Monica’s College of Education in the Diocese of Asante-Mampong in the southern part of the country.
One of the students, who was visibly uncomfortable in the amateur video, eventually gave in after initial resistance, amidst cheers from the audience.
The act by Father Balthazar Obeng Larbi has angered Ghanaians on social media, including Ghanaian think tank African Education Watch, which has petitioned the Ghana Tertiary Education Commission to sanction the priest for violating protocols against COVID-19.
Starrfm Online, a Ghanaian English-language news portal, quoted an unidentified student: “He gave the school chaplain a kiss and then did same to the 3 female Bible readers. The third girl the father kissed is a virgin and that’s why she gave her cheek to the father to kiss but he forced and kissed her lips. Afterward the incident, she said the father had broken her virginity.”
The province said it has been saddened by the August 15 incident.
“The priest (will) be dealt with in accordance with the norms and values of the Anglican Communion where morality is extremely revered in the Church,” it said in a terse statement by the Ven. Dr. George Dawson-Ahmoah of the Anglican Diocese of Koforidua. The church later reportedly suspended the priest.
Dawson-Ahmoah, who is also the Executive Director to the Metropolitan Archbishop of Ghana, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Cyril Kobina Ben-Smith, added that “all efforts are being made to engage the students concerned through counseling sessions” to avert trauma.
Ben-Smith chairs the college’s council, while Larbi serves as chaplain.
Founded in early 1930 by Sisters of the Order of the Holy Paraclete, the institution is the only female Anglican Teacher Training College in Ghana.
It seeks to become one of the best colleges in Ghana by serving as a center of excellence for training of teachers for basic schools and instilling spiritual, academic, and humanistic values to make its alumni effective role-models.
According to the official website, “the College was named St. Monica after a saint of Africa and a type of faithful Christian Motherhood who was chosen as the patron of the institution.”
Its aim is “to produce God-fearing, honest, hardworking and responsible teachers capable of effectively playing their roles as future leaders in the development of our dear country Ghana.”
It offers a four-year Bachelor of Education program. Ghanaian government administration of the institution commenced in 1975.
Ghana is one of two “internal provinces” of the Church of the Province of West Africa, with 11 dioceses comprising the entire country. The other internal province has six dioceses comprising parts of seven countries: Cameroon, Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Senegal, and Sierra Leone.
The Province of West Africa has been active in the Anglican realignment as a member of the Global Anglican Future Conference. Then-Archbishop Justice Akrofi was a founding Primate of GAFCON in 2008.
Jesse Masai is a freelance journalist based in Limuru, Kenya.