The population of Africa is growing faster than anywhere else in the world. By 2050, four in every ten Christians will be African. This continent will determine the future of the world’s religions – for Islam too is growing faster here than anywhere else in the world.

Ghana is a very youthful country. Half the population is aged under 16. And in the diocese of Yendi in the north, the population is growing faster than the national average. Catholics are a minority here. Islam is dominant in the region, while traditional African religions still exercise a powerful influence. The boys are needed to work in the fields, the girls to work at home. There is a widespread shortage of electric power in the country, and a shortage of books as well.

For Bishop Vincent Sowah Boi-Nai the answer is clear: the young must be instructed more thoroughly in the Christian ideals. Not only for the sake of the future of the Church in Ghana, but above all ‘to offer support for the educational mission of families’ (Amoris Laetitia, 279) and so that Christians living in this difficult social and religious environment can live and enjoy the freedom of the children of God.

Together with his catechists and some spiritual communities, the bishop has worked out a formation programme for 500 young people. It will cover two years and is intended to help them avoid the dangers and temptations both of the many different sects and of the modern consumer society, and to say ‘no’ to drugs, to continue with their schooling, reduce the number of teenage pregnancies, cut down youth crime and develop a healthy sense of self-worth… In short, a character-building exercise that points the way towards the future.

In particular, these young people are being taught virtues such as:

  • honesty,
  • loyalty,
  • a spirit of sacrifice,
  • solidarity.

In addition they are;

  • learning to pray,
  • learning to help, and during these two years also
  • learning to apply the practical principles of the Catholic faith.

Only in this way can they be credible witnesses. And the other thing that is clear to Bishop Vincent is this: ‘the evangelisation of young people is best carried out by young people themselves.’ This is about an integral formation of character, in te spirit of what Pope Francis has written: ‘To foster an integral education, we need to renew the covenant between the family and the Christian community’ (Amoris Laetitia, 279).

This is something of a model project, and one that builds for the future at a modest cost. It is not often we can achieve so much good with so little money!

This article can be found in Mirror 0616.