About 230 people representing 31 countries gathered together at Elmina, Ghana, from October 2 to 5, 2017, for the Fourth African Forum on Religion and Government (AFReG 4). Of the about 230 participants, 31 were African Americans or African Caribbean. The breakdown of participating countries from outside of Africa are USA, Guyana, Jamaica, Haiti, Netherlands, Singapore, UK, and Uruguay.
The theme for AFReG 4 was Africans Rising Together.
Prior to the forum, there were visits to prominent Ghanaian leaders and the Press to explain its rationale and objectives. Those visited included H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo (president of the Republic of Ghana), and H.E. Jerry John Rawlings (former president of the Republic of Ghana).
It also needs to be noted that another group from Liverpool was at Elmina during the same period October 2 to 5, 2017, to pray and seek God’s blessings on Liverpool after formal apologies for their part in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Representatives from Liverpool shared how the city has experienced blessings after the formal apology was rendered by the city authorities. The leaders of AFReG 4 and the team from Liverpool considered the coinciding of their presence at Elmina an act of God.
AFReG 4 offered a rare opportunity for Africans and Africans in the Diaspora to interact directly on the different historical perspectives on the Slave Trades, their implications, contemporary parallels, and the way forward for people of African descent.
The visit to Elmina castle (initially built in 1482 by the Portuguese), followed by a drama by University of Cape Coast, rekindled emotions on the cruelty of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
The interactions that followed were generally positive and forward looking. Speakers included H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo (Former president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria), Lord Paul Boateng (Member of the British House of Lords, Former UK Ambassador to South Africa), H.E. Erastus Mwencha (Former Deputy Chairperson of the African Union), and Traditional Chiefs from Ghana.
The Africans from the Diaspora expressed their pain for the inhumane treatment of their ancestors. They also expressed regret at the collaboration of Africans in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. The evidence of collaboration on the part of Africans brought the painful feeling of betrayal.
The positive response to this unequaled tragedy in human history is the positioning of this story within the biblical story of Joseph. The Africans in the Diaspora entered the story of Joseph and confessed that what was meant for evil, God meant for good.
The response from Africans was rather broad, with some holding the view that Africans of today cannot be held responsible for what happened centuries ago. The general view, however, was that Africans need to own up to the unfortunate actions of their forebears and apologize to the Africans in the Diaspora, as well as ask for their forgiveness.
In addition to this position, it was also clarified that the African responses to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was broader than is being represented by popular historical accounts; mostly from Western authors. There were Africans who resisted the slave trade by violent or non-violent means. Some were neutral, and others compromised out of fear or for material gain. Then there were willing collaborators, and opportunists who exploited the situation out of greed.
The forum deemed it important to remember to honor Africans who fought against the Slave Trade in Africa, as we look at the sad reality of those who were collaborators.
On the third day of the forum, in a moving event, traditional chiefs (Nana Dr. Ohemeng Awere, Nana Taamah II, Nana Eduakoh and Nana Akosua Gyamfiaba II—Queen Mother) joined church leaders led Africans in extending apology to the Africans from the Diaspora. The apology was accepted by Bishop and Mrs. David Perrin on behalf of the Africans from the Diaspora. The ceremony (facilitated by Rev. Dr. Setri Nyomi, Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith, Mrs. Beverly Pegues) was held in front of the Atlantic Ocean. This provided a visual image of the long journey of the slaves. It was meant to be a journey of no return. Part of the celebration was that things have been reversed by the grace of God. The sons and daughters of Africa have returned.
The focus then was on the way forward. Through workshops and group discussions, participants explored how Africans on both sides of the Atlantic can collaborate in strategic areas for their common development based on the vision, values and principles of the Kingdom of God. The areas considered included Family, Government, Education, Business, Arts-Sports-Entertainment, Media and Religion.
AFReG is also looking at the following actions as necessary build ups on the forum:
- Include Africans from the Diaspora in AFReG leadership.
- Research into a possible Memorial Day for remembering the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade globally. The AFReG movement will subsequently carry and popularize this day.
- Research into what happened during the Trans-Saharan Slave Trades, and their implications.
- Research further into contemporary examples of slave trades, and how to avoid the mistakes of the past.
- Promote collaboration in strategic domains amongst Africans and Africans in the Diaspora for the common development of the African.
Participants at AFReG 4 were challenged to make the following shifts
- from the perception of being Victims to Victors
- from being primarily Historians to History Makers
Participants were also motivated to realize that freedom is never given. It is truly freedom when it is taken by those who need it. Africans on both sides of the Atlantic are primarily responsible for declaring themselves free in order to design and pursue a new future that enables them to embrace their God-intended destiny. Part of the thinking encouraged was for Africans in the Diaspora to realize that their ancestors were not slaves by nature. They were free people who were enslaved within a period of history.
In looking towards the future, the people of African descent were encouraged to embrace their God-intended destiny based on biblical prophecies and promises.
At that time gifts will be brought to the LORD Almighty from a people feared far and wide, an aggressive nation of strange speech, whose land is divided by the rivers—the gifts will be brought to Mount Zion, the place of the Name of the LORD Almighty. (Isaiah 18: 7)
Envoys will come from Egypt; Cush will submit herself to God. (Psalm 68: 31)
Envoys shall come out of Egypt, Ethiopia will quickly stretch out her hands to God. (Psalm 68; 31; NKJV)
We praise God for a successful AFReG 4. We now turn to building on its momentum to realize the full objectives of the forum through a global movement.