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2011 Africa Military Chaplains Conference Begins in Ghana
The first AFRICOM Military Chaplains Conference to take place on the African continent kicked off on October 3, 2011 in Accra, Ghana with 38 African military chaplains and seven U.S. military chaplains attending. The four-day, landmark event was
ACCRA, Ghana - Participants of U.S. Africa Command's Military Chaplains Conference greet each other, September 2011 in Accra, Ghana. This was the first military chaplains conference hosted by U.S. AFRICOM on the continent of Africa. From left to right: Namibia Army Chief Chaplain, (Lieutenant Colonel) Nangula Kathindi; Botswana Army Major Reuben Moatlhodi; Nigerian Navy Reverand (Lieutenant Commander) Godshelp Iyobosa Osaghae; U.S. Army Africa Chaplain (Major) Nana Bassaw; South Africa Army Chaplain (Brigadier General) Marius Cornelissen. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Deborah Croft)
1 photo: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 1 of 1: ACCRA, Ghana - Participants of U.S. Africa Command's Military Chaplains Conference greet each other, September 2011 in Accra, Ghana. This was the first military chaplains conference hosted by U.S. AFRICOM on the continent of Africa. From left to right: Namibia Army Chief Chaplain, (Lieutenant Colonel) Nangula Kathindi; Botswana Army Major Reuben Moatlhodi; Nigerian Navy Reverand (Lieutenant Commander) Godshelp Iyobosa Osaghae; U.S. Army Africa Chaplain (Major) Nana Bassaw; South Africa Army Chaplain (Brigadier General) Marius Cornelissen. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Deborah Croft) Download full-resolution version
The first AFRICOM Military Chaplains Conference to take place on the African continent kicked off on October 3, 2011 in Accra, Ghana with 38 African military chaplains and seven U.S. military chaplains attending. The four-day, landmark event was co-hosted by U.S. Africa Command and the Ghanaian Armed Forces.

U.S. Africa Command Chaplain, Air Force Colonel Jerry Lewis, and Ghana Director of Religious Affairs, Reverend Colonel David Adotey-Asare, delivered opening remarks to the participants, followed by an official welcome from Ghana Armed Forces Chief of Defense, Lieutenant General Blay.

Among the countries participating along with the United States and the host nation, Ghana, are Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Botswana, Burundi, and Namibia. Each country that can do so has sent one Catholic, one Imam, and one Protestant religious delegate.

Last year, the U.S. and African Military Chaplains Conference was held in Garmisch, Germany, where the participants expressed their wishes to one day hold the conference on the continent of Africa. The dream came true sooner than expected when Ghana volunteered to host this year's conference.

The annual conference provides a unique opportunity to assemble African nation chaplains and U.S. military chaplains to further each other's understanding of common challenges, exchange views, establish and enhance interpersonal and working relationships, and foster security cooperation. The theme for the 2011 conference is, "Partnering for Spiritual Strength." The forum is also a venue to work through issues that might impede the mission.

While addressing the participants, Colonel Lewis explained that there are two goals for the 2011 Chaplains Conference.

"We are here because last year in Germany, some of our brothers from Africa shared that the best thing we could do was to enlarge the opportunity for other African nations with established chaplain corps to come together. With General Ham's blessing, we are here throughout the week to develop partnerships among ourselves and build bridges between Americans and African nations, because that is so important in today's context. The burdens are not getting lighter, the demands for spiritual care are only increasing because of the world we live in. Building bridges amongst each other is vitally important so that we can support one another, help one another and, as children of God, can encourage one anotherrĂ¢?with the burden and responsibilities that you have and leading the spiritual welfare of your commands as well as your troops we need that spark of hope to carry that flame of hope. We share a common heart and caring. My hope is that we will get an opportunity to meet colleagues who are also carrying that flame."

The second goal for the conference, according to Chaplain Lewis, is to develop networks amongst African nation participants so they can collaborate and assist each other in developing warrior support programs and not have to work in isolation. He used a sports analogy to demonstrate the teamwork aspect of working to accomplish a spiritual goal.

"It's that network that becomes, I think, a change breaker. I think we all sincerely desire to be winners, especially when it comes to the spiritual wellbeing of our soldiers," he said. "I think that networking enables us to help enhance that goal. As I say, if you'll forgive me thinking about just kicking that ball, we're just trying to advance that ball just a little further down the field to enhance the kingdom of God."

The keynote speaker for the opening ceremony was Ghana's Catholic Archbishop Emeritus, Peter Sarpony, who explained how deeply spiritual the African people have always been throughout history and how Africa is losing its moral values to ever increasing materialism.

"Our ethos has been overshadowed by money madness," Sarpony said. "From people who respected human dignity, we have become people who simply disdain the worth of the human person. Indeed we need spiritual awakening very badly...Soldiers need the spiritual advice and encouragement of their chaplains. Ordinary men and women rush to church in numbers in the times of problems. We look for God in times of trouble. We, as chaplains must cash in on this natural human tendency."

After the opening statements and remarks, the participants broke out into smaller groups to discuss three topics that were agreed upon during the 2010 Chaplains conference in Germany. The topics include; healing and reconciliation, combat stress, training on the role of chaplains to wounded warriors, and advising leadership.
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