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POSTFACE

On Earth as it is in Heaven

The Koinonia and mystique of the slum

As we let ourselves be guided through the pages of this

book, it is as if we are being led by hand by its author, who

walks with us in the slum across the magic of the Unknown.

Poverty and wealth are inescapably entwined to the point that

we lose all certainty and sense of proportion. Who is richer –

those who are given everything and have no need of anyone or

anything, or those who are so dependent on others that they

could not survive without help? Is it those who think they can

manage on their own or those who are aware they couldn’t get

by without others?

What hits you on entering the slum (known in Accra as

‘Sodom and Gomorrah’) is the filth, the deafening noise, the

devastating stink, the unmanageable confusion of endless

labour and the feeling of unease that everything seems coated in

the most abysmal poverty. The first impulse on entering the

slum is to turn our backs as soon as we can and return to the

order and hygiene we know. When it dawns on us that there are

no toilets and no running water, no kitchens because they can’t

be fitted with electricity or gas, and yet thousands of people live

here – a question starts to form in our minds. And not to

mention the roads! If you arrive on a rainy day, the flooding and

mud seeps everywhere. There’s no point trying to walk where

it’s dry; you might as well just take off your shoes and go

barefoot like everyone else.

There is a passage in the book where the protagonists

return to their slum equipped with gumboots, and we

immediately sense their distance. They no longer feel the earth

underfoot. For those who leave the slum, there is no going back;

they will never be the same again. Others came from the

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country in search of Eldorado, the city of gold, and settled in

the slum, as if in a dream, to seek their fortune. Our heroes find

their fortune and manage to escape the slum, but at a cost. The

slum itself abandons them – the whole world of the slum, its

infinite world of endless human riches. All the money that they

can throw at the misery of the slum can never match the bounty

of its koinonia, that intimate communion that makes brothers of

us all. The Unknown One’s message falls on deaf hearts: the

Unknown is part of the magic of the slum and won’t appear to

those conspiring to betray it, who think themselves too well

dressed to walk barefoot on its dirty, wet ground. That question

grows and takes shape in our minds.

They say that in Jerusalem a small door remained open

when larger ones close for the night. If you arrived in the city

late, you could always get in through this small, welcoming

door. It was so small compared to the other doors that it became

known as the ‘eye of the needle’. When it was open you could

go through it, but not without effort. The rich merchant had to

make his camel, laden with goods, pass through it, and it wasn’t

easy. The more goods on the camel, the harder it was to get it

through the ‘eye of the needle’. If it really could not get

through, the merchant had to take off all the wares and push the

camel’s head down so that it could cross the little threshold. It

was impossible for all those riches to come into the city without

an act of humility. Perhaps Jesus had this story in mind when he

cautioned the rich people and taught them that the only way

they could enter the kingdom of heaven was to similarly strip

themselves of all worldly goods.

That question has now crystallised: if thousands of

people manage to survive in the slum, they must have

something we don’t, something that allows them to manage,

which we still do not know about, a treasure more precious than

gold, which that can’t be bought. This is the tale told by

Claudio Turina, a tale he tells because he has lived it, has come

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to understand it in his work as a missionary and, earlier, on

embracing Christianity. We can either wear gumboots or take

off our shoes; we can either enter into the slum or just walk

through it; we can either pass through the ‘eye of the needle’ or

be barred because our load is too great. Claudio attempted to

take off his shoes and truly enter the heart of the slum. He was

able to do it because Mother Theresa showed him how. He was

able to tell us about it because he had already experimented

with the idea at other times in his life, as a lay missionary

pilgrim of the world.

So we, too, come into the slum barefoot and try to

unveil its hidden secrets: the dirt is an inexhaustible mine of

small treasures ready to be recycled and exchanged for other

useful goods; the deafening noise is a mix of hypnotising music

and cries of joy containing an irrepressible urge to

communicate; the stink is comingled with the aroma of flavours

evaporating from huge pots, of spices and of wood burning on

the roadside conjuring up meals in the open; the confusion is an

expression of the industriousness of people who must use all

their ingenuity to achieve the smallest necessity, the most

everyday gain; and poverty, which had seemed to coat

everything, suddenly takes on a natural essentiality.

It could not be otherwise: the shacks amassed in an allenveloping

embrace have no room for the extraneous; the

variety of the materials stacked together to build them creates a

unique style made up of infinite colours, glowing under the

light of the sun or reflecting the iridescent magic of a thousand

night-time fires.

The secret of the Unknown begins to reveal itself: the

slum is not the Eldorado we all expected; it does not offer the

gold everyone has desperately been seeking – but riches,

manifold and incalculable, which comprise koinonia, that

sharing of love and worldly goods that underlies the Christian

experience. Life in the slum thus becomes an inexplicably

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natural mystical experience – the fruit not of theological or

spiritual research but of the spontaneous perception of the

essence of things. The spectre of Eldorado in the end turns out

to be the spirit of God; what should have been the city of gold

turns out as if by magic to be the city of God.

This is Claudio Turina’s inner journey: from the city of

men to the City of God. City of God is not only a book; it has

become a project, a website, a life trajectory. Claudio has

written many fine and interesting books, engaging memoirs and

moving poetry. But none has so far affected us with such

invasive human and spiritual energy – so much so as to become

its own creature, walking on its own two legs towards a future

to and transcending its creator.

This is the spirit of the slum, its mystique and its

koinonia, and Claudio has been able to interpret them.

Prof. Daniele Spero

INTRODUCTION City of God. Fr. Cmpbell

INTRODUCTION

 

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

GHANA

Prefatio Arch. Charles Plamer-Buckle

I am sure if you googled "Sodom and Gomorrah", you

would find quite a number of places so named around the

world; one such place is the biggest slum settlement in

the centre of the Accra Metropolis of Ghana. I first

heard of and visited this slum area during the 2005

Christmas season in the company of a St. Francis-like

Italian Franciscan Friar, by name Arcadio Sicher OFM

Conv., who had taken up living with and ministering to

the dwellers of Sodom and Gomorrah. It was a shocking

experience of extreme contrasts coming into contact

with very simple but beautiful people from different

parts of Ghana and from the West Africa subregion who

had been compelled by difficult social and dire

economic circumstances to eke out a living in those

atrociously insanitary environments and conditions of

life.

Overwhelmed by the spiritual beauty and deep community

spirit of the dwellers, we decided to change the name

of the place to City of God in the determination to

help bring these our brothers and sisters to a better

self-esteem of themselves, of who they each are in the

eyes of God and to empower them to gradually better

their sorts by the grace of the Holy Spirit. That is

how the project "City of God" came about.

Behind this novel of Claudio Turina is the very

challenging but equally fulfilling pastoral care and

ministry of some of our benefactors home and abroad,

men and women volunteers, youth and adults, missionary

and diocesan Priests and Religious Sisters, Catholics

and non-Catholics, Christians and of other faiths and

beliefs, etc., all of which are giving unfathomable

love and commitment, training in health-care and

sanitation, in fire-fighting preparedness, offering

night-school and ICT programmes in youth and adult

literacy and numeracy formation, beads-making, sewing

and other skills training for those willing, and of

course religious and moral formation, not forgetting

programmes of civic education to equip them with

knowledge of their social rights and responsibilities.

Let me thank Rev. Fr. Arcadio and other Religious

Sisters who started this ministry of the City of God.

I thank Rev. Fr. Subash Chattilappilly, a Missionary of

Christ from India for taking it up and inviting his

friend of long standing in social work Claudio Turina

to visit Accra and to help him minister to the

beautiful people in our City of God. I congratulate

Claudio for his infectious enthusiasm and persevering

spirit in writing this novel to bring the naked reality

and yet great big dream of this project to the world

out there.

Just google www.cityofgodaccra.com and know more. It is

a project worth your support and love.

Most Rev. Archbishop Charles Palemr-Buckle

Launch of Book "City of God"

1-      H.E. the Second Lady of Ghana, Mrs Matilda Amissah Arthur, on Wednesday 11 March 2015, in the Great Hall of the parish church Christ the King of Accra, has presented the book “City of God” of Claudio Turina. Was present quit a lot of people, more than 500 persons, among them all seminarans, pupils of City of God, religious sisters, brothers and many lay persons. The important income of the auction of the book is to sustain City of God. City of God “Peace Adult School” thanks all who contributed to organize the success of cultural event.    

 

The Apostolic Nuncio of Ghana visit on 10 march 2015

1-      The Apostolic Nuncio of Ghana on 10 march 2015, has visited our Polyvalent Centre “City of God, in the slum named Sodom and Gomorrah, famous for being the most toxic place on Earth, Agbobloshie, Accra.
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Tuesday 10 February 2015, inauguration of City of God

On Tuesday 10 February 2015, inauguration of City of God“Peace Adult School”, by the Second Lady, H.E. Mrs. Matilda Amissah Arthur. 

We thank our generous sponsor, the association TRE.CA.SMA of Trento-Italy, for the restoration of the school CTIY OF GOD.  

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