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Father Ryan Reports from West Africa (VII): “Planning Ahead”


Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society Patrick J. Ryan, S.J. is spending a month in Africa, a continent where he previously lived for 26 years. During his time there, he will be blogging about his experiences. Here is his latest post:

I am still in Ghana, as I have been since Dec. 28, but will return to Nigeria on Jan. 13 and fly out of Nigeria to New York on the night of Jan. 15. I expect that the search at the airport in Abuja will be more extensive than it was for my flight from Lagos to Accra.

I am reading ahead for next semester, just having finished a book on the ethical and political problems involved in humanitarian assistance. During the spring break I am scheduled to give a course for Fordham’s Institute for International Humanitarian Affairs on this topic.

In 1983, various relief agencies flew in supplies to Ghana for half a million Ghanaians deported from Nigeria in January of that year. Among other things, huge army field tents were sent in on the mistaken notion that these deportees would be shelterless. Nobody lacked a relative on whose floor, at least, he or she could sleep, so the huge tents were finally used by solitary night watchmen standing guard at places like the Catholic Secretariat in Accra.

Some of the supplies flown in proved very useful in Ghanaian hospitals, such as baby formula, which was in short supply. On the presumption that I knew Italian (at the time I did not, but have since learned it in Rome), I was asked to come to the staff and student hospital of the University of Ghana to translate the directions on cans. With Latin and French, I managed to figure them out. No one died as a result.

I am also re-reading Lamin Sanneh‘s fascinating study of the impact of mission on culture, “Translating the Message.” The book is assigned for a course I am teaching in the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education this spring. Lamin, together with his wife Sandra, have been close friends since 1975 when we were colleagues at the University of Ghana. He and she both teach at Yale now.

I offered mass yesterday evening for Fr. McShane’s brother, Jack, who died suddenly on Jan 6. May he rest in peace.


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