Togetthere from a Ghanaian point of view
Beacons of hope
In July and August 2007, a group of 16 youngsters and their four team leaders arrived at the (gold) coast of Ghana. They researched ten themes in collaboration with small groups of Ghanaians from different villages and organizations. Kofi Amfo-Akonnor, Director of Church Life & Nurture of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, describes his experiences.
"In the months of July and August 2007, a group of 16 young participants and their 4 team leaders arrived at the shores of the Ghana (Gold Coast) to explore and work on ten themes in close relation with small groups of people from the local community or civil society.
Program Art of Life is, for me, about encounters with people from other cultures, especially between the North and South. It is about ecumenical learning, which is a process of discovery.
It is about how to discover or unveil and put into practice a common future. It is a challenge for young people taking the risk of unexpected brotherhood/sisterhood. It is a faith journey as well, linked with acts of transgression because respected borders were crossed. The experience of Art of Life cannot be prescribed. It happens only through honesty and curiosity. Through participation of young people who struggle to become ‘a people together' with others from different cultures.
One world we all share
It is about sharing in community which ended up, from my experience with the young people, by each person losing a bit of their identity through face-to-face and people-to-people encounters. And hopefully, the educational effect of Art of Life would be that we shall soon begin to see the world and ourselves with the eyes of others and to relate our actions to the common ‘One World we all share'.
As the program itself indicated, Art of Life was also based on the concept that young people today are in search of identity and living in a global community with a diversity of cultures, beliefs and values. On the one hand, young people become confused about what could be essential in life. On the other, they can experience through encounter with others, the answer to the leading question which is in the program: ‘What is the Art of Life?
I have no doubts at all in my mind that Art of Life did try to establish an ongoing dialogue between the young people from Holland and their Southing counterparts from Ghana by focusing on awareness of identity and learning from and with each other! Societies become more complex.
Schools, teachers, mass media and such encounters as Art of Life also share in molding young people for the future.
More of such programs as Art of Life will reveal that, historically and even currently, youths are caught between tradition and progress. The concerns and speculations in the South about Western values, consumerism and secular role models being imposed from the West on the world's youth should be another focus for future discussions. For in general, young people in developing countries place more emphasis on family and tradition than on personal achievements.
And that is why many young people in Africa have managed to keep one foot in their country's past and culture while the other foot is headed in new directions towards modernity. My own expectation from the perspective of Art of Life is that young people in the coming years, if given such opportunities, will be working towards a community of Hope for our world.
Epicenters of hope
Hope that is not only a bundle of warm feelings about the future, or a set of positive attitudes about a better future scenario in which things will work out well, or even a kind of subjective attitude. Rather, I expect an African infusion of hope that is intimately linked up with God. Young people have a great responsibility to educate everybody on the nature and scope of this hope. Weaving communities of hope is not a quest by individuals but by concerted efforts of young people.
Shared activity and collaborative endeavor work out best for the community, for the world. Mistrust can only be overcome by trust. Alienation and exclusion on the basis of ethnicity, religion, race, political persuasion or any other such things cannot coexist with hope. Young people must be given such opportunities to be beacons and islands of hope, acting as epicenters of hope from which more hope radiates beyond them."