Story and Photos by Elder John Bingham and Sister Jo Bingham — Africa Area West Public Affairs Missionaries
Thirty young adults – members of the Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Baha’i, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints religions – met in Accra at Christ the King Catholic Church Hall to participate in the Second Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue Program for the Youth of Ghana.
Organizers of the three-day event, held September 25 – 27, explained, “We believe the message of Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue should be inscribed on the minds and hearts of the youth, since the youth – the future of society – are unfortunately, used as the catalyst of violence and division. This programme will serve as a means to empower young minds not to be swayed into political, religious, and cultural violence.”
This is a very pragmatic goal in view of recent political, religious, and cultural violence in some African countries. It is also significant with the national elections in Ghana scheduled for December 7, 2008. Articles in local Accra newspapers from representatives of the various political parties and local leaders of all faiths are urging for a peaceful election and transition of government, no matter which candidate is elected.
The current president, His Excellency John Kufuor, is completing his eighth year as president and is not eligible for re-election by the Ghanaian Constitution. After this election, Ghana will have a new president.
Delegates from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (from left to right) included Ellen Kissiwaa Boateng, age 18, and Sandra Odi, age 20, both from the McCarthy Hill Ward, Accra McCarthy Hill Stake; Patrick Yao Nkonu, age 24, from the North Ridge Ward, Accra Christiansborg Stake; Bright Kwashie Hamenu, age 28, from the Dansoman Ward, Accra McCarthy Hill Stake; and Emmanuel Amissah Forson, age 25, from the Lartibiokorshi Ward, Accra Christiansborg Stake.
Also shown in this picture are Elder Richard K. Ahadjie, Area Seventy, and his wife Emelia who attended the opening ceremony as Special Guests.
It is interesting to note that at the scheduled starting time of the program, the only delegates present were those from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and their Special Guests, Elder & Sister Ahadjie.
Ellen Kissiwaa Boateng comes from a family of five, who are all members of the Church. Her goal is to become a Chartered Accountant. When asked what she learned from this Pax Romana experience she said, “People all have different approaches to worshiping God, but they all believe we worship the same God.”
Sandra Odei is an only child. All her family members are members of the Church. She also would like to become a Chartered Accountant. When asked what she learned about her own faith from this experience she replied, “We have the fullness of the gospel and a living prophet to give us directions. We also have holy temples where sacred ordinances and covenants are performed.” She also said, “If you don’t understand anything about other religions, it is better to ask than to criticize.”
Patrick Yao Nkonu and his younger brother, who was baptized last month, are the only members of his family who are members of the Church. His father is Muslim and his mother is Christian. He served as a missionary in the Nigeria Calabar Mission and works as an Instructor at the Missionary Training Center in Tema , Ghana . His goal is to obtain a BSc degree in Computer Science. He said, “This Pax Romana Inter Faith Activity has taught me that as youth we should contribute positively to the development of our country and our morals and behavior should reflect our religion.”
Bright Kwashie Hamenu has been a member of the Church for nine years. He served a mission in the Nigeria Port Harcourt Mission. He is recently married. He and his wife have been sealed in the Accra Ghana Temple . He is now serving as a counselor in his ward bishopric. He said of this experience, “The program was an eye-opener to me, to learn about other faiths and their beliefs. I learned that no matter what the problem might be, we must love and respect other people’s religion.”
Emmanuel Amissah Forson has been a member of the Church for eleven years. He served a mission in the Nigeria Ibadan Mission. He is now serving as a counselor in his ward bishopric. All members of his family are baptized members of the Church, but one sibling. His father is deceased. He is currently studying accounting at Zenith College in Accra and would like to become a Chartered Accountant. He currently works part-time doing accounting for a distribution company. He said, “I liked the message that if wise men do not elect wise men to lead us, then fools will elect fools to lead us.”
Ellen Boateng noted, “I must add that the returned missionaries amongst us made their mark [in the study sessions] by actively participating in the questions and answers sections, giving good contributions.”
The final day of the Pax Romana event was spent visiting various religious sites in Accra for a brief tour and explanation of religious beliefs followed by a spirited and cordial question and answer period.
Bright Hamenu and Emmanuel Forson made the presentation, answered the questions, and conducted the tour of the Church facilities at the Accra Temple complex. Following a brief video presentation explaining our core beliefs and our church buildings in one of the conference rooms in the Church office building, they answered questions from the Pax Romana Delegates.
During the tour of the Chirstiansborg Stake center building, the stake Relief Society was holding a homemaking day celebration. Bright is explaining the display of the Tesano Ward Relief Society. (Note the positive response from the Pax Romana Delegates!)
Also, note the reaction of the Pax Romana Delegates visiting the display of various Ghanaian traditional foods. In the Stake Center Cultural Hall.
At the conclusion of this activity, the LDS delegates were interviewed by the Area public affairs couple and Stake Presidents. Their comments about this Pax Romana experience were enthusiastic and glowing! Here are some of their comments:
“It was a great program! We learned about other’s beliefs and how to establish common ground so we can understand each other better. We learned how to discuss religious, cultural, and political issues with an open mind without offending each other.”
“No matter what our religious backgrounds, we are all Ghanaians!”
“When we explained our beliefs during the tour on Saturday, it seemed we had something everyone was looking for; they enjoyed our tour very well. We have a story to tell and we told it the best!”
“From the time we are in Primary, we are taught to speak up. We have the truth and we speak the truth. It was as if we were ringing a familiar bell in their ears. The response was very positive.”
“The way our video presentation was organized, the room, the hand outs – including copies of the Book of Mormon, the beauty of the grounds and buildings, and the Relief Society Activity in the Stake Center ; it was just perfect.
The other delegates talked about it the rest of the day.”
And, perhaps the best comment came from the young man who chaired the activity, Anthony Akrasi Asubonteng, of the Catholic Church, in his email to the Area public affairs missionaries: “You have been a blessing every step of the way to the success of the programme. I truly appreciate every kind word and advise (sic) given to me during the planning stages. Stay a blessing.”