Trip to Ghana will explore interfaith relations

A group made up of 12 Muslims and Christians from across Scotland will embark on a unique trip to Ghana to explore faith relations.

Some of the group going to Ghana. L-r Farkhanda Chaudhry, Mirella Yandoli, Very Rev Dr Susan Brown, Rev Anne Stewart and Dr Yahya Barry
Some of the group going to Ghana. L-r Farkhanda Chaudhry, Mirella Yandoli, Very Rev Dr Susan Brown, Rev Anne Stewart and Dr Yahya Barry

During the 10-day visit, which has been arranged by the Church of Scotland, they will travel widely across the country and meet with religious leaders from both faiths.

Church of Scotland interfaith officer Mirella Yandoli said: "With this trip we aim to provide a transformative experience for key Muslim and Christian leaders in Scotland.

"They each bring with them specific areas of interest which will be explored in the Ghanaian context so that we can learn tangible lessons from the people and organisations we visit.

"The main objective is to learn and exchange good practice and ways of working with the aim of bringing fresh perspectives home to Scotland and inspiring our leaders to explore new ways to collaborate and work together across faiths."

Around 77% of the population in Ghana is Christian, with Muslims making up a further 16%, and the two groups have better relations than in many countries in West Africa.

The oldest mosque in Ghana at Larabanga
The oldest mosque in Ghana at Larabanga. Photo by Sathyan Velumani

Those taking part in the trip include prison chaplains of both faiths, former Moderator of the Church of Scotland Very Rev Susan Brown, community activists and an academic.

Very Rev Susan Brown, who is also convener of the Kirk's World Mission Council, said: "It has been good to get to know the very different people who will be journeying together to Ghana and I fully expect to be challenged, moved and inspired by our visit and our conversations along the way.

"The key will be in what we bring back to our various contexts.

"What might we learn that will help us to understand each other better and that might enrich our lives as Christians and Muslims in Scotland? Watch this space!"

On one of the days the group will visit Elmina Castle, a UNESCO world heritage site, and poignant reminder of the slave trade across the Atlantic.

Elmina Castle was at the centre of the slave trade for hundreds of years. Photo by Nkansahrexford
Elmina Castle was at the centre of the slave trade for hundreds of years. Photo by Nkansahrexford

Over hundreds of years the fortress was used as the final holding place for slaves who were then shipped to the Americas.

Starting in the capital Accra, they will also travel north to visit the oldest mosque in the country, which was founded in the 15th century.

Community activist Farkhanda Chaudhry, who is one of the trip leaders, said: "I am looking forward to the journey which will no doubt lead to lots of sharing and reflection.

"I also believe that learning from the Ghanaian experience will allow us to reflect upon what we have in common as people who live in Scotland."

Drawing on areas of expertise from within the group, there will be an emphasis on exploring issues including education, civil representation, prison chaplaincy and gender justice.

Historically the Church of Scotland has strong ties to the country, and Kirk missionaries backed the formation of the Presbyterian Church, as well as many schools in the early 20th century.

The visit has also been partly funded by the Alwaleed Centre and Muslim-Christian Studies Network at the University of Edinburgh and Al-Maktoum College in Dundee, with support from Interfaith Scotland.

The trip takes place Saturday 14 September - Tuesday 24 September.