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Aidan Kwame Ahaligah, 11 S.T.M.
Agbozume-Volta Region, Ghana, M.A., Wartburg Theological Seminary; Dip. Theology, Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon, Accra Ghana; Presbyterian

I completed my basic theological degree in 2002 and accepted a call as a pastor to a small town in the Central Region of Ghana. Right at the beginning of my ministry with the Presbyterian congregation in this town, I was confronted with their immense poverty, a challenge for which my initial theological education had inadequately prepared me.  A World Bank report in the same year indicated that the Central Region was one of the poorest regions in Ghana. Whereas other regions in the country had witnessed slight decreases in poverty, that of the Central region and the communities in which I served had increased, especially in female poverty levels.

AhaligahIn these impoverished and remote communities, where people were not sure where their next meal was coming from, and where diseases and sickness challenged and threatened their very existence, I found a people who were deeply in love and committed to the worship of the Lord. I had on several occasions presided over the burial services of children lost to malaria and parents lost to HIV-AIDS.  It was in such a context that I was challenged to redefine my approach to ministry. I was seriously confronted with the relevance of the gospel to the poor, the oppressed, and to those who because of their underprivileged status in society faced injustice. In this case, I was challenged to read, reread, and redefine my understanding of John 10:10 and Luke 4:18-19. In John’s account of what I refer to as Jesus’ manifesto, he said, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” In Luke’s account, Jesus says, “The spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

These scriptural passages stirred my interest and also elicited questions centered on what “abundant life,”  “fullness of life,” “release” of the oppressed, “the lord’s favor,” etc., meant, especially to a poverty-stricken community. My interactions and ministry among the peoples in these communities developed and changed my academic pursuits in light of a holistic approach to ministry. After the completion of my masters degree in theology at Wartburg Theological Seminary here in the United States, I applied to Yale Divinity School for my Master of Sacred Theology degree.

Here at YDS, I have been nurtured to comprehend that the Gospel challenges us to define prophetic responses to all injustice that threatens life in abundance, especially issues such as HIV-AIDS and tuberculosis, poverty, malaria, inimical traditional practices, the absence of amenities like safe drinking water, and the abuse of children and women.

“Here at YDS, I have been nurtured to comprehend that the Gospel challenges us to define prophetic responses to all injustice that threatens life in abundance, especially issues such as HIV-AIDS and tuberculosis, poverty, malaria, inimical traditional practices, the absence of amenities like safe drinking water, and the abuse of children and women.”

I have also become a theological student who is interested in a broad range of development issues including public health, capacity building, microeconomics, resource degradation, gender equality and human rights. I deem it as indispensable to my ministry to devise and propose holistic and sustainable strategies from a theological point of view/core as faithful witness to the incarnation of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. I am privileged to have had some of the best professors and instructors here at YDS, who have been great guides, mentors and friends in my nurturing process.

My S.T.M. thesis explores the connection between African religions and Christian theology. I am particularly interested in the reconfiguration from a postcolonial perspective of local African conceptualizations of traditional Western concepts in theology like Christology and soteriology. I am also looking at how the use of the mother tongue, through translation of the Bible into various local languages, factors into these reinterpretations of what were once meta-narratives in theology. I am grateful to have Lamin Sanneh, the D. Willis James Professor of Missions and World Christianity, as my academic advisor.

I must also submit that it is not all academics here at YDS. I have enjoyed playing soccer with the Divinity soccer team, the Paracleats, working out at the Payne Whitney gym, the community dinners at the Divinity School, the diverse nature of worship services at Marquand Chapel, and hanging out with wonderful colleagues and friends at GPSCY-the Graduate and Professional Students Center.

After my studies at YDS, I intend to go back to Ghana to teach in a seminary. My mission will be to develop a curriculum that empowers students to develop their own theological, personal, social as well as political sensitivity and skills to engage their own cultures with the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, at the same time being respectful of their respective local theologies.

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