What a title…sublime, majestic heavenly. It conjures up thoughts of a happy, joyful, fulfilling place of peace and joy with a loving and caring God. But in reality City of God is an oasis of loving, caring people bringing peace to the most deprived, marginalized poor in a filthy, toxic, smelly, deprived area of Accra called Sodom and Gomorrah. Within the past fifteen years, thousands of people, mainly from the North of Ghana, have migrated to this enclave. With little or no work in their home town, they come to Accra, thinking the capital roads were pawed in Gold and Silver.
Visiting City of God is an experience not to be missed especially after the rains, Ankle deep in mud; one has to abandon ones shoes or sandals. The blaring cacophony from the most powerful P. A. Systems is deafening preventing one from holding a reasonable conversation with a neighbour. The smell, sights above all the atmosphere is alive, active and electric.
The novel called City of God is written by Claudio Turina, a lay missionary from Venice, Italy. He portrays a vivid compelling picture of this heavenly oasis in the midst of filth and dirt. Claudio has spent time with Rev. Fr. Subash, a missionary priest who works full time at City of God ministering to the most deprived children in this planet. Claudio has immersed himself in assisting Fr. Subash in this little heavenly kingdom. Having encountered the problems, difficulties and seeing the way forward to assist these people he decided to put into writing in a form of novel, his experiences to raise funds for Fr. Subash and the City of God projects.
This novel centres around three people and is situated at the most toxic place on this earth. Two of the characters are a man and a woman brought up in this enclave and who each had been promised in their dreams a soul mate the Unknown had told them they would find. Having been blessed in obtaining an education, and having become successful in their studies and business, they feel drawn to the slums. After a spiritual encounter with a man of God, they feel obliged to do something about the conditions of Sodom and Gomorrah.
City of God is an experience that everyone should encounter. When you read this novel, you should feel the urgent desire not only to visit this slum but want to assist Fr. Subash in this wonderful apostolate to the poor and deprived.
Those of us who live in concrete houses with mosquito netting on our windows, with our bellies full, and cars to bring us to work, don’t really know how the other half of the world live. It is so easy to put one’s hand in one’s pocket and give money to a beggar for a worthy cause. But to visit that beggar at he lives, to what he eats, experiences of daily basis, his sleeping environment, would tell a completely different story. We are too easy to condemn, judge, criticize and shun the deprived in society. Have we ever sat down and had a heart to heart conversation with a leper, a prostitute, an ex-convict, prisoner, a street child, an HIV + patient? Rom. 12.13 tells us to make special friends with the poor. Have you a special poor person whom you assist regularly? Having a conversation with a needy person can utterly transform us to see things differently and help us not to judge but to act and do something positive for the marginalized and underprivileged. We sometimes act like armchair Christians by not getting out, rolling up our sleeves and getting down to help.
We should take Mother Teresa’s motto to heart…DOING SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL FOR GOD. One day a man told Mother Teresa that what she was doing was like a drop on water in the ocean. Mother wisely answered him by saying that the ocean is better off because of that drop of water.
Be that drop of water. Delve into this novel by Claudio and experience the smell, sight, taste of most toxic place on this planet. Then go and existentially visit this haven of peace, City Of God in the midst of Sodom and Gomorrah and see how your life will be changed. Then go and do SOMETHIG BEAUTIFUL FOR GOD.
Most Rev. Fr. Andrew Campbell
P.O. Box CT 2110
Cantonments – Accra