Ghana tumour girl ignites debate

Accra, Ghana - A church has found itself at the centre of a debate between religion and the state in Ghana after a 14-year-old girl with a tumour was taken away from her parents to ensure she receives medical treatment.

Mathias Acquah and his wife Rebecca are unflinching members of the Jesus Christ Apostolic Faith Church in Accra.

Members of the church have no use for doctors and hospitals, because they believe solely in divine healing.

They don't even accept polio immunisation.

Their 14-year-old daughter, Mabel, had not seen a doctor, despite developing a life-threatening tumour which showed up five years ago and is now nearly the size of her head.

The tumour dangles on the back of the girl's neck.

The department of social welfare, backed by the police, has taken custody of Mabel and she is now seeing the doctor.

But state intervention is not backed by all Ghanaians.

Divine healing

Mr and Mrs Acquah were not available for comment, but a member of their congregation, who declined to be identified, said that he would do the same thing as the Acquahs if any of his children were in a similar position.

"We only pray for them believing God's word and they get healed so if she was my daughter that is what I would do."

"It works so wonderfully... we are very happy to be practising divine healing."

The Christ Apostolic Faith Church has been around since 1941.

Its elders claim that the congregation has suffered very few deaths in decades.

However, a number of people whose relations belong to the church say that claim is exaggerated.


Ken Attafuah, a human rights activist, says the authorities have no rights to close down the church but it must act to protect children.

"The church's action in constraining the right of the child to medical attention is a violation of the rights of the child," he says

"That is a matter the state ought to take up to stop the church from engaging in such conduct towards this particular child and towards other children in future."

Authorities at the department of social welfare are now considering how to deal with the long-term relationship between Mabel and her parents.

It seems that when religious faith and the law run into each other on a narrow bridge, it is the law that has the right of way.