Thomas Awiapo

Thomas Awiapo: Peace Elections for Africa

CRS Ghana’s Thomas Awiapo shares his thoughts on a workshop in Accra, Ghana organized by CRS and SECAM (Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar) to promote peaceful elections in Africa.

“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”
—Thomas Paine, 1777.

It is in this spirit and through a passionate desire to promote peaceful elections in Africa that Catholic Relief Services and the Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar have brought together Church leaders and CRS staff from across the continent to reflect on ways to promote violence-free elections and give peace a chance.

It might interest you to know that next year—2012—many African countries will be celebrating 50 years of independence, a time of nationhood and a time of self-governance. I’d like to say congratulations in advance to these countries. Also, between now and December 2012, 22 African countries will be holding presidential and parliamentary elections. Wow! This is so reassuring and a great sign of hope. Africa is gradually moving away from coups d’état—which have cost Africa many precious lives and have retarded development.

As the Most Rev. Paul Bemile, Bishop of Wa Diocese and chair of the Peace and Justice Commission of the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference, speaking at the workshop said, “The workshop on promoting peaceful and credible elections in Africa could not have come at a more opportune time than this. As Christians, we love peace, we pray for peace and we work for peace. However, just as the untrained soldier is at the mercy of his enemy, the uninformed Christian is incapable of prevailing against the forces of evil in the world of politics. We need knowledge, skills and the relevant information to help Christians make informed decisions and choices in order to bring about peaceful elections and this is exactly what this workshop hopes to achieve”. Bishop Bemile then entreated participants to enjoy the workshop and make sure it bears fruit that will bring peace to the continent of Africa and the world as a whole.

A lot was said, a lot was learned at the workshop. Great insights and best practices were shared. I personally will leave the workshop as a better instrument of peaceful elections than I have ever been and I have no doubt that my fellow participants will be the same.

After all was said and done, Most Rev. Alexio Muchabawa of Zimbabwe, a key participant of the workshop, urged all participants to pray and pray for peaceful elections in Africa because we cannot underestimate the great power of prayer.

I sincerely share the bishop’s call to prayer for peace. And permit me to quote Learned Hand, a jurist who once said, “I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and courts. These are false hopes, believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men. When it dies there, no constitution, no law can save it.”

I invite you to pray without ceasing for hearts to be changed so that attitudes and behaviors will also change and that we will see peaceful elections.

Remember, as peace loving people, we must be prepared to sacrifice our lives on the altar of justice so that Africa can experience the joy of living in peace and harmony. This is a tough call and requires great sacrifice and I hope that we can find encouragement and consolation in the promise of Christ; “Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called children of God.”

–Thomas Awiapo
As a child in Ghana, Thomas Awiapo was a beneficiary of CRS school feeding programs. Now, as an adult, he works for CRS Ghana and travels to the United States annually to tell his inspiring story to American Catholics at schools, parishes and communities. Thomas will be a featured guest blogger and will be reporting from Ghana about the issues he witnesses firsthand.

Watch the video: Empowered for Life: The Thomas Awiapo Story.

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