Frontiers of Justice Was a Journey of HOPE & SOLIDARITY

By Meyerl, Gary | Momentum, November/December 2008 | Go to article overview

Frontiers of Justice Was a Journey of HOPE & SOLIDARITY


Meyerl, Gary, Momentum


Participants reflect on their experiences during the 2008 Frontiers of Justice trip to West Africa

Inspiring. Educational. Transformative. Each of these words could be used to describe the experience of being a part of the Frontiers of Justice delegation of Catholic high school teachers that traveled through the West African countries of Burkina Faso and Ghana this past summer. Since 1998, Frontiers of Justice, a partnership between NCEA and Catholic Relief Services (CRS), has been providing Catholic secondary school educators the first-hand experience of visiting developing countries like El Salvador, India and Kosovo. This summer a group returned to West Africa for the first time since 2002. This article introduces you to the six Catholic high school teachers who completed this journey and shares their insights and reflections.

You Are Welcome

Tanya Davis, who serves as the Christian-service coordinator at St. Francis Catholic High School in Sacramento, California, came away from the journey with a new understanding of an all-toofamiliar phrase.

"You are welcome!" What does this phrase mean? In our American society we usually shorten it to "You're welcome" and say it as a response to someone who has offered us a sign of gratitude. Time and time again in Ghana, the phrase "You are Welcome"

was said not as a response to "thank you," but as a greeting. At first it seemed out of context and a bit strange, yet we quickly grew accustomed to it and we truly knew that, yes we were welcome.

As a delegation we witnessed "You are welcome!" come alive before our eyes. We were frequently greeted by children walking along the roadside or people working in the fields with a huge grin and an exuberant handwaving hello. We were welcomed with a round of applause after being introduced at Mass. We were welcomed in schools, homes and even in the most remote of villages.

At each of the places we visited we were greeted with a personal handshake. This handshake was full of life, love and warmth. The phrase "You are welcome!" was repeated time after time, from person to person. We were strangers in their land, yet we were made to feel like we were part of one human family by the most vulnerable and under served in society. At die end of many of our visits we were given guinea fowl eggs, peanuts and even live chickens by the most inspiring, hardworking, hope-filled people we had ever met.

The phrase "You are welcome! " is no longer foreign or unfamiliar. It is one that is enduring, real and an invitation to take part in a family that extends past our own families, nations, ethnicities and religions. "You are welcome!" truly embodies what it means to be a people of solidarity.

Roads of Hope and Solidarity

Many of the roads we traveled on were red-dirt roads that seemed to go on for miles and miles. Sinead Naughton, a global studies teacher at St. Vincent Ferrer High School in New York City, found inspiration in the roads leading into the Diocese ofDamongo.

Don't be fooled by the red, dusty road leading into the Diocese of Damongo because they are paving roads of a very different kind there - roads of hope and solidarity. Damongo is a large diocese in the northern region of Ghana. While it is a poor area often affected by long droughts or the ravages of flooding, it is making impressive strides when it comes to the education of girls in this region.

Bishop Philip Nameh spoke to us passionately about the role that the Catholic Church has played in promoting the education of girls in the diocese. When the bishop first came to Damomgo in 1995 he found that 96 percent of all the women were illiterate - a finding that was unacceptable to him. During colonial times, missionaries were not allowed in the area and, as we learned, the British saw the area as a hot source of laborers for the mining industries of the south.

Even with primary education as an option, Bishop Nameh observed that most of the girls finished primary level (the U. …

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