Viewing Prisons as CongregationsJune 8, 2023 2023-06-08 15:49
Viewing Prisons as Congregations
The Lutheran Media Ministry paid a visit to Koforidua Prison in the Eastern Region on 26th May 2023 with donations of food and non-food items to the inmates and joyously shared words of encouragement with them.
The Christian Approach to Prisons
From the story of Joseph’s confinement in Genesis to Satan’s imprisonment in Revelation, the Bible contains numerous references to prisons. Throughout history, Christians have dedicated significant efforts to determine the most appropriate responses to crime, punishment, incarceration, and rehabilitation. They have strived to provide spiritual guidance to prisoners, sought to impact the justice system, and played a pivotal role in shaping the development of modern prisons.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus echoed the words of Isaiah when he stated, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners” (Luke 4:18). The Book of Hebrews urges us to show empathy towards those who are in prison, treating their situation as if we ourselves were in prison (Heb. 13:3). Furthermore, in the Gospel of Matthew, we learn that when we visit prisoners, we are actually visiting Jesus himself (Matt. 25:36)
Given the significance of Jesus’ teachings on freedom for prisoners and the biblical call to remember and support those in prison, it is no surprise that Lutheran Media Ministry is dedicated to engaging in a comprehensive outreach program called “Prisons Ministry.” Similar to the great commission to spread the Gospel, this ministry emphasizes the importance of visiting and providing assistance to individuals who are incarcerated.
Liberty even in physical bondage
The biblical narrative, in general, focuses less on pronouncing judgments for crimes and punishments and more on the themes of mercy and fellowship. For instance, in the book of Genesis, we encounter the story of Joseph being imprisoned by Potiphar. Despite this hardship, Joseph experiences the presence of the Lord and receives unwavering love and support (Gen. 39:21). In Psalm 107, there are accounts of individuals who were rightfully imprisoned due to their rebellion against God’s word, yet when they cried out to the Lord in their distress, He saved them and liberated them from their bonds (vv. 13–14). Additionally, the prophet Isaiah was called by God to declare freedom for captives and release from darkness for prisoners (Isa. 61:1). These examples illustrate how the Bible emphasizes themes of redemption, liberation, and God’s mercy towards those who are imprisoned.
The state of the prisons!
No prison in any part of the world can be described as comfortable, on the contrary, many inmates face unspeakable challenges in prison and even when they are free, face stigma from their communities. The notion that individuals who have completed their sentences for committing crimes are susceptible to relapse and returning to prison may appear unusual. Why would someone willingly decide to go back to such an environment? Sadly, this phenomenon is observed in numerous countries, including Ghana, where the crime rate is on the rise. Disturbingly, there is a significant increase in recidivism rates, especially among the youth population. When 70 percent of inmates are aged between 18 to 35 years, the country has a serious problem — the youth are their future leaders, but how will spending time behind bars affect them?
The problems with prisons in Ghana having been reported severally are inadequate counselling and rehabilitation services due to overcrowding and poor resources, and community reintegration challenges contributing to inmates’ recidivism.
During the devotion with inmates at Koforidua Prison, Mr. Kyei, the Bible Correspondence Course (BCC) Coordinator encouraged inmates to not be downcast because of their current predicaments but to hold on to hope for a better tomorrow. His message strung the possibilities of transformation through the power of God and hoping beyond hope.
Is there truly Hope?
Many times, we neglect to prioritize our neighbours due to trivial distractions like TikTok, Telenovelas, or football. Some individuals isolate themselves in their rooms, overwhelmed by a fear of living and consumed by a sense of loneliness or feeling left behind. In the process, we unknowingly disregard the needs of our friends, family, and neighbours. Simple acts like paying a casual visit or making a phone call to check up on them can go a long way in addressing these overlooked needs. Sometimes all they need is a smiling face to reassure them of the awaited hope. To love your neighbours is to love Christ. Be a bearer of such hope, prisoners are your neighbours too.