Fr. Ángel in Ghana: migrating to the migrants home
March 16,,2016 - Ghana
Fr. Ángel Fernandez Artime is in Ghana, “the gateway to Africa”, as a large banner depicts as a welcoming message for the passengers landing at Kotoka International Airport in Accra.
Ghana has a historical record of being a country that ‘opens the way’. On the 6th March 1957, she was the first Nation to gain her freedom and independence from the colonial powers on the continent. The first to have one of her sons, Kofi Annan, as leader of the United Nation. The first also with the highest number of slaves eradicated from the ‘Golden Coast’, her former colonial name, and taken ‘from the door of no-return’ still kept as it was in the castles along the coast, to be sold in the plantations of central and south America. More than 11 million West Africans were taken away and never came back.
After the giant Nigeria (170 million inhabitants) Ghana – 26 m. – is the Country in West Africa with the highest number of migrants trying to reach the coast of Europe through the deadly route of the desert, of Libya and of the Mediterranean Sea.
Encouraged by the appeal of Fr Ángel at the closing of GC27 to be present and turn our heart, our energies and our inventiveness where ‘needy young people challenge us with their groans and their cries of pain’, the Salesians in Ghana are at the side of children and youth who are victims of the modern form of slavery, not less violent that the ones of the past. ‘In their own way they are calling out to us’.
The Child Protection Centre in Tema where Fr Angel will visit on Saturday 6th February is giving shelter and help to regain trust and positive chances for the future to children who have being rescued from any kind of human trafficking and abusive conditions. In the space of few months one can see a real ‘resurrection’ taking place: moving from the most inhuman treatments to an environment where they are cared for in a ‘Don Bosco way’ they regain their smile, confidence, trust… love indeed regenerates life. Among the goals of the centre there is the reunion with a family (natural, extended or foster family) and the reinsertion in a regular educative school programme. Some have never entered a classroom before being rescued.
"You cannot stop the wind with your hands", says an African proverb. But you can hear the wind and interpret the signs of the time, as the Gospel invites us to do, trying to be merciful like the Father towards those who have fallen into the ruthless network of human trafficking. In this light we can interpret the visit made by Fr. Ángel Fernández Artime, Rector Major, to a centre for child victims of trafficking, on the afternoon of Saturday 6 February.
In full swing is the campaign of awareness and sensitization for the young people more exposed to the attraction of illegal migration, especially in the Brong Ahafo region, with Sunyani as capital city. Through interviews of those who survived the journey and are now back in their communities, video and radio campaigns, front pages in national newspapers, forum for secondary schools, film and talk show in rural areas… the AFW Project Development Office and Don Bosco Youth Network, in collaboration with VIS Rome and Missioni don Bosco Turin, are reaching out to thousands of youngsters, creating awareness about the deadly risk attached to illegal migration, and the many forms of fraud and trafficking, exploiting those who venture into such a kind of exodus. Awareness and ‘know how’ for opportunities available in their territory for building a meaningful future in Ghana are equally part of the message. This will be especially the goal of the second stage of the project: to offer valuable alternatives here, as counter-response to the illusions that magnetizes many of those who leave.
Fr. Ángel visiting Ghana comes to the roots of the migration phenomenon: this shows the right way to go for a meaningful and effective response to this epochal shift in human history. ‘We cannot stop the wind with our hands’, an African proverb says. But we can listen to the wind and interpret the signs of the time, as the Gospel invites us to do, trying to be merciful like the Father towards those who have fallen into the merciless network of human trafficking, but above all, according to the inspiration of the preventive system, finding effective way to prevent many more to end up into the same evil, right here, right now, at the root of the problem.