Meet Assumptionist Fr. Jean-Paul Sagadou: Bringing West African Youth Together
2017-02-12 - Ghana
In 2009 the Assumptionists, under the leadership of Fr. Jean-Paul Sagadou, launched a new and ambitious initiative, called African Integration Trips (AIT). African Integration Tours are organized by the Youth Network for African Integration (YNAI) and are tours of inter-African cultural discovery.
The main objective is to transmit to African and Afro-descendant youth the ideal of a plural, integrated and united Africa, in its religious, cultural and political aspects. The AITs have a strong educative and civil dimension. Every year, a tour tackles a specific theme and proposes to participants: training, workshops and conferences that include history, economics, entrepreneurship, the arts, humanities, etc.
The AITs are intended to bring young West Africans together to engage in intercultural and interreligious dialogue. The educative part of the Tour leads to discovering the history and the culture of the host country, and situates them in a global pan-African history.
The sixteen countries which make up West Africa count 300 million inhabitants of which half are under the age of 20 and three quarters under the age of 30. The Integration Tours target anyone between 17 and 35 years old, whatever their religious, linguistic, cultural or professional background, who wants to discover the cultural and sightseeing riches of the African continent and who wants intellectual training in a Pan- African vision of Africa and its diaspora.
The African Integration Tours, which usually last 10 days, have been organized since 2009 in one of the 54 countries of Africa. Each year a new theme deepens the notion of African integration:
2009: African Integration (Burkina Faso)
2010: African Integration and the Meeting of Cultures (Benin)
2011: Integration and African Renaissance (Mali)
2012: Reconciliation and African Integration (Ivory Coast)
2013: Citizenship and African Integration (Togo)
2015: African Integration and Democratic Culture (Senegal)
2017: African and Afro-descendant Youth Facing Pan Africanism: Kwame Nkrumah and the Reconstruction of Africa in the 21st Century (Ghana)….August 4-14, 2017.
This initiative found its inspiration in the vision of Kwame Nkrumah (1909-1972), president of Ghana (2000-2006), who repeatedly said, “Africa must unite,” a powerful political vision and desire. Even if the Organization of African Unity (O.A.U.) was put in place among African states to reach this goal, the reality is that it has not been easy to do so. The results have been meager indeed and it does not seem that governments make a concerted effort to put this unity at the forefront of their efforts. One must question whether this goal can be achieved from “on high”. The Youth Network for African Integration, together with its AITs, is seeking to take a different approach, one from the grassroots. It believes that young people have an important role to play in the quest for African unity. It does not want to stay at the level of slogans, but to offer young people concrete opportunities to achieve this goal.
This effort has been launched by the Assumptionists who are characterized by a passion for the great causes of God and a particular concern for youth. In the great Augustinian tradition that pursues unity, truth, and charity, the Assumptionists, for their part, encourage ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, especially through work with young people (education), the press, and parish ministry. They seek to bring people together, to create bonds between them, and to bring to birth communion and solidarity among persons of different cultures, nations, religions, or tribes.
Fr. Jean-Paul, A.A.