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Obama visit resonates with Ghanian Catholics in the archdiocese

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

By David Eck

ARCHDIOCESE – When President Barrack Obama visited Ghana July 10-11, Holy Ghost Father Francis Tandoh was closely tuned to news from his homeland.

“I was following him on CNN,” said Father Tandoh, pastor of several Dayton-area parishes and a native of Ghana. “It made me proud in a way because it was the first place he visited in the Sub Sahara.”

During his speech, President Obama recognized the country’s democratic progress and strengthening economy, which was not lost on Ghanaians in the Cincinnati archdiocese.

“For us it has been a big change,” Father Tandoh said. “You can talk. You can say what you want to say.”

He said corruption in government is decreasing because of media exposes, particularly from radio. The government is more open to criticism, and has respect for the power of the media. People are participating in free speech and free broadcasting.

Obama’s visit may also enhance Ghana’s standing in Africa and help spread democracy in the region.

“We were the first independent country in the Sub Sahara,” Father Tandoh said. “The visit sends a good signal to other countries in Africa. With this visit it has put the pressure on us.”

While Father Tandoh has led groups of parishioners to Ghana in the past, they have shown new enthusiasm in future trips since Obama’s visit, Father Tandoh said.

Barb Wuest, a Catholic from Bridgetown who has made two trips to Ghana, was happy that Obama visited the country.

“It just raised (Ghanaians) hopes and their pride,” she said. “They were so proud that the would choose their country to visit. It would raise their hopes for a better life for themselves.”

She has found Ghanaians friendly and hospitable.

“They would give you the shirt off their back that they don’t have,” she said. “Everyone is always smiling and happy no matter what the dire circumstances.”

“Hopefully their name will become more familiar to people all over, and when you hear Ghana you will react,” she said. “With more knowledge of them and their lives hopefully they can get (additional) help to improve their country even more.”

Ghanaians have a strong faith, and regardless of their religion, faith and God are ingrained into their culture.

“The bishops are very farsighted in what they are trying to do in their dioceses,” Wuest said. “They work with people of all religions to improve lifestyles.”

Joan Hilton, a parishioner at Our Lord Christ the King Parish in Mount Lookout who has also visited Ghana, noted that Obama treated the country as an equal.

“We’re taking with them not to them. We put them on our level instead of looking down at them,” Hilton said. “It raises it to a whole other plane. Talking to them, you’re on the same level.”

The visit also gave Americans the opportunity to see Ghana in a different light.

“They see it as a country that has been functioning well,” Hilton said. “It shows (Americans) that some of the countries in Africa are working.  This way you can see it’s a successful country.”

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