About the Ghana-Exchange-Project: systematic (KSHG, Petrikirche)
For decades there have been partnerships between parishes of the diocese of Munster and parishes in the five dioceses of Tamale, Yendi, Navrongo-Bolgatanga, Wa and Damongo in the northern part of Ghana. Then came a partnership between the local KSHG and the student community of Saints Peter& Paul Parish in Tamale added. And almost exactly ten years ago, these relationships were expanded into yet another dimension: an exchange program between the Catholic Theological Faculty of the WWU Munster and the theological faculty of the northern Ghanaian dioceses, the St. John's University of Munster. Victor's Major Seminary and the St. Augustine Millenium Seminary in Tamale.
The then Archbishop of Tamale, Gregory Kbiebaya, came to our faculty during one of his visits to Munster and suggested that contacts should also be established between the Munster faculty and his priest training school in Tamale: In St. Victor's and St. Augustine is studied exclusively by candidates for the priesthood and religious, because in Ghana there are no full-time lay people with a full degree in theology. I then embraced this concern during the next research sabbatical and took up a visiting professorship in philosophy at Tamale in the 2004/05 winter semester.
It was a whole new world: after a 14-hour bus ride over gravel roads, I arrived in St. Augustine, a sprawling bungalow development in the middle of the savannah. Sub-Saharan climate in January, the peak of summertime, with 40-45 °C, no running water, but almost daily dust storms and mosquitoes without end at night. Often power failure, no Internet. Later I learned: My colleagues there had made a bet on how long I would probably stay. But I stayed the whole semester because I was deeply impressed by the students, the colleagues, the so-called ordinary people in the villages I came to, the Muslim theologians I met – Tamale is a largely Muslim big city with ca. 300 000 inhabitants, including ca. 11,000 Catholics and just the theological faculty. And I was equally impressed by the way people there live and celebrate their faith, by the diversity of their rites and cultures, by the encounter with the Ancient Religions, i.e. the pre-Christian and pre-Muslim religions, which are highly vital in Ghana (as everywhere in Africa). And I was enchanted by this country. That's why I not only stayed, but was certain to come back again. And at the same time the idea matured to make this experience possible for students of our faculty as well. So it was just one year later, in 2006, that the first three-week block seminar with 24 Munster students took place in Ghana: Magic Africa 1.0.
In a few weeks, on 14. August, Magic Africa 5 launches.0. The seminar is almost one of the classics of our teaching program. Because it has established itself as a unique place of learning of diverse perspectives for future theologians, as well as students of other subjects who are connected to the Christian faith. In essence, there are six perspectives in which the participants have profound experiences:
- Firstly, there is the encounter with this enigmatic continent, basically artificially created at the Berlin Conference of 1884 by the colonial powers under the chairmanship of Otto von Bismarck, which still suffers today from the mortgages of the power calculations from which it sprang. The struggle for independence of the former British colony is still part of the core of national identity in Ghana, which is one of the first countries in Africa to become independent.
- One layer down, we encounter the most horrific legacy of the modern era: slavery, during which ca. 60 million people have been trafficked out of Africa, specifically including Ghana. Only a quarter of the enslaved reached their destinations, especially in Latin America, three quarters died on the way to shipment or on the crossing. Visiting the slave collection points in the north and the slave castles on the Atlantic coast are among the most shocking things we encounter in this seminar.
- Not unconnected with this horror story, but then also in a completely different way, the question of the history of missions is occupying us in Ghana. The shadow and light sides of Christianization sometimes mix in the process. Questions arise that touch on the tragic to this day, such as when a man who, according to the religion of his ancestors, has married several women, now asks to be baptized and then learns that he can only become a Christian if he sends the second and every other married woman away again. But there is also the fact that nowhere is so much done for the education of girls in particular – regardless of religion and denomination – than in Catholic communities and schools. Or that the church fights vehemently against the belief in witches, to which even today even intellectuals adhere, so much so that men and women persecuted as sorcerers and witches have to be brought to safety in their own villages.
- Closely related to the topic of mission is what is now called "inculturation": How does it work and what does it mean to follow the gospel as an African today?? How is faith expressed in life and liturgy in these other cultures? Do you have to become Greek and Roman first to be a Christian? Or is there a very own rank of African traditions and forms of thinking into which the Gospel has to be translated, just as it was once translated from Jewish into Greek, from Greek into Latin, from Latin into Germanic etc?. etc. has been translated? The first native bishop in Ghana, Peter Poreku Dery, first bishop in Wa, then archbishop in Tamale, was one of the Council Fathers of Vatican II. One of the forerunners of this African inculturation at the Second Vatican Council. I still knew him personally. An incredibly charismatic man. Pope Benedict awarded him a cardinalate in 2006 for his services. 2008 during our seminar Magic Africa 2.0 he died. Already his beatification process is underway.
- Because reason and faith are inseparable for Catholic theology, we always deal with African philosophy on site in Ghana. Surprising to many, the Western philosophy we are familiar with actually has African, Egyptian roots. The influence of wisdom teachings there on a number of pre-Socratics and on Plato, who incidentally himself spent some time in Egypt, cannot be overlooked. And it is no coincidence that Egypt was also something of a cipher for the mysteries of reality for many later philosophies up to the modern age. Today's African philosophers know this and point out that comparable traditions have always existed in sub-Saharan Africa and still exist today, even if these philosophies have usually only been passed down orally in song, poem or dance form. So we also set out to find Black Athena and Socrates in the kraal.
- But – last point – we are not only looking at traditions, but also at the immediate present. And we have to take note of the fact that there have long been new distortions between Africa and the Old World from East, North and West: Things are happening that are wreaking havoc: Land grabbing, i.e., the theft of land, which consists of Far Eastern powers buying up huge tracts of land in order to grow food or biofuels for their own nations, without respecting the traditional rights of the indigenous population, which are almost never guaranteed in writing. Or the destruction of domestic industries, for example in the textile sector, through the trade in second-hand clothing. And most outrageous of all: the illegal disposal of European, and especially German, electronic waste to Ghana: We will also visit Africa's largest computer scrap dump in Agbobloshie, a southern district of the Ghanaian capital Accra, where children and young people torch PCs, screens and cell phones to get their hands on the valuable metal components – and inhale so much toxic fumes that quite a few of them will be dead before 20. Dying on his birthday. Here we encounter the famous "heart of darkness" (Joseph Conrad) in brutally unvarnished form.
If you go away from yourself into a foreign country, you return to yourself enriched, as the philosopher Hegel knew. All who have been in this seminar so far will confirm that. You then look at faith, church, yourself with different eyes – not to mention the personal relationships and friendships that are formed in the process. We reciprocate this gift from our Ghanaian friends by inviting Ghanaian students and faculty to join us one year after our seminar to share our lives. The one or the other will then also stay here to study in Munster. Soon the second thesis of a student from Tamale will be finished here. And for this side of the exchange, I would like to ask for your support now, so that this program can continue after its 10th birthday. Birthday can continue.