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Ghana taxis display religious faith

Taxi drivers post their belief in divine intervention on their cars.

Taxi drivers in Ghana often write religious slogans on their rear windows. This taxi is parked in the town of Aflao, on the Ghana-Togo border. (Ken Maguire/GlobalPost)

ACCRA, Ghana — Public displays of religious devotion on Ghana’s roadways make “God is my co-pilot” bumper stickers in the United States look like the work of heathens.

“Merciful God” adorns the rear windshield of the taxi taking you to the airport. “God is Great” is the message on the packed minibus taxi passing you at high speeds on narrow highways, making one wonder if the driver wants to prove his point.

Those are among the thousands of slogans — there’s a growing number of nonreligious expressions as well — that taxi drivers write on their rear windows, typically in bright yellow block lettering.

They are vivid reminders that Ghana, though secular politically, is a religious state.

Less obvious are the hidden stories of how drivers choose slogans. Some give thanks, others want revenge, while some just want extra help to stay safe on the road.

“Judgment Day” in yellow letters and red trim practically jumps off the rear window of Papa Ayi’s minibus taxi — called a “tro tro.” He’s awaiting passengers at the taxi park on the Ghana-Togo border, and the word “Humble” is pasted on the rear of the tro tro behind his.

“I have some problems with my friend — the way he treats me,” Ayi said, explaining that he was fired from a previous job as a driver.

His former employer sued him because of a disagreement over $250. Ayi said he’s an honest man and that he spent the man’s money on auto parts. It went to court. He lost. The court order requiring repayment is tucked into the sun visor above the steering wheel, a constant reminder of a bitter experience.

Hence, Judgment Day.

“All the things you do when you are alive, you will be judged,” he said. “If you do bad, nobody will help you.”

Religion and culture are inseparable in Ghana, a heavily Christian country with a Muslim minority. Some Christians also practice traditional religions. A survey project called Afrobarometer asked Ghanaians to choose either “divine intervention” or “creativity and discipline of Ghanaians” as the answer to why the country has achieved success. Seventy-two percent chose “divine intervention.”

Stores have religiously themed names, like Blessed Real Estate, Praise the Lord Provisions Store, or God is Love Saloon. Political speeches can be mistaken for Sunday sermons. Popular radio hosts tell callers “God bless you” before saying goodbye.