While enrolled in the Master of Arts in Global Development and Social Justice at St. John’s University, Rev. Fr. Henry Cafuie Ahorlu ‘18G developed a woman-centered strategy to peace-building in his home country of Ghana and has continued working to implement this strategy since graduating.
Although Ghana is relatively peaceful to other countries in West Africa, its northern region is plagued by ethno-political and religious conflicts, including the succession dispute between the Abudu and Andani Royal Families of the Dagbon Kingdom. So far, interventions by governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have not been effective at resolving conflict in the region.
Fr. Ahorlu sought to address this global issue as part of his capstone research for the M.A. He also observed that current peace-building strategies did not fully recognize the particular needs of women or acknowledged the significance of women’s contributions to peace-building. His capstone, “The Role of Women in Post-Conflict Peace-Building in Ghana’s Northern Region,” proposes an economic strategy for peace-building championed by women. “History has taught us throughout history that the process of conflict resolution and peace-building have been predominantly patriarchal,” said Fr. Ahorlu. “The traditional peace-building strategies of mediation, arbitration, and adjudication have not worked with predominantly male stakeholders. Enabling the economic potential of women will allow them to take on more of a leadership role in peace-building.”
Now, as the newly-appointed pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Accra, Fr. Ahorlu will be working with his Bishop to monitor the peace process in Northern Ghana between the two tribes. “My capstone research fits this new role perfectly,” said Fr. Ahorlu. “In fact, the real work has just begun. The inclusion of women in post-conflict peace-building and development is vital to the peace in Northern Ghana, and I will be working to facilitate this long-term process.”
Fr. Ahorlu applied to the M.A. in Global Development and Social Justice after hearing about the program from another alum, Rev. Fr. John Amoah ‘16G. “The interdisciplinary nature of the program was what appealed to me most,” he said. “It equipped one to handle developmental issues from the standpoint of Catholic Social Teachings.”
While enrolled, he particularly enjoyed the courses Migration and Refugees in Development: Humanitarianism, Gender and Inequities taught by Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology Roberta Villalón, Ph.D., and Catholic Social Thought and Practices of Integral Human Development and Solidarity, taught by Christopher P. Vogt, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Chair of Theology and Religious Studies. After taking Media Strategy and the Politics of Peace Building with Basilio G. Monteiro, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Mass Communication, Fr. Ahorlu chose Dr. Monteiro as his capstone mentor.
“I am not surprised that Fr. Ahorlu’s capstone has become part of Ghana's peacebuilding project,” said Dr. Monteiro. “He was passionate about his topic and particularly how women in Ghana would be critically important to process of reconciliation. He was a committed student who made every effort to find best path forward the build peace in his country, and particularly in the region where he grew up.”