As climate change continues to blight vast territory in East Africa, the Communications Coordinator of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) has said a church response is needed to stem the tide.
In exclusive comments to Timescape Magazine, Father Andrew Ulemu Kaufa said human behaviour is to blame for a climate that continues to warm, putting the lives of millions on the line.
“It is about human behaviour. On one hand, you have those who are exploiting the natural resources with total disregard to the consequences of their behaviour as long as they benefit from it; on the other hand, is that population whose livelihood depends on the natural resources, but they do not have any alternatives. Unfortunately, the latter are often poor if not semi-literate so that they do not see linkages between their behaviour and environmental degradation. Both sides in my view require a church response,” the priest told Timescape Magazine.
Such a Church response is the focus of the 20th AMECEA Plenary Assembly that ends Monday, July 18 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on the theme “Environmental Impact on Integral Human Development”.
“As a matter of fact, the purpose of choosing the theme was to assess the level of awareness and the impact of the Laudato si messages among the people … this would give the church an opportunity to assess whether enough has been done in the past 7 years or more needs to be done,” Father Faufa says.
According to East Africa Hazards Watch, major cities in the region have witnessed “an increase in temperatures that almost doubles the 1.1°C warming that the globe has experienced since pre-industrial times. Since 1860 Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) has warmed by 2.2°C, Khartoum (Sudan) by 2.09°C, Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) by 1.9°C, Mogadishu (Somalia) by 1.9°C, and Nairobi (Kenya) by 1.9°C “
Father Kaufa notes that “most countries in the region report frequent occurrences of floods, droughts, cyclones and outbreaks of new diseases but also some trees and natural foods becoming extinct.”
Speaking on July 10 at the start of the Pro-Prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle called on participants to examine the root causes of climate change instead of focusing on the consequences.
“I encourage all those who will be participating in this Plenary to confront the root causes of environmental degradation. It is not enough to look just at the effects of climate change. Otherwise, we will propose cosmetic solutions, which will not change anything,” Cardinal Tagle said.
“A cosmetic solution does not change reality,” the Vatican-based Cardinal added.
Cardinal Tagle warned against the continued destruction of the environment and urged the people of East Africa to see Christ in all creation.
“Why waste creation? Why destroy creation? Don’t we see the presence of Christ through whom, in whom and for whom everything was created? Everything was created through Christ, in Christ and for Christ. Everything contains the living and active presence of Jesus,” the cleric said.
“Every blade of grass, every flower, every leaf, every breath of fresh air, the person next to you, the person far from you, everything speaks of the presence of the invisible presence of God made visible in Jesus. And the beautiful thing is that the eternal word through which everything was made became flesh,” Tagle said.
He said it was the lack of brotherhood- “a failure in human fraternity” that leads to the misuse of creation. He said when human brotherhood is compromised “creation is not handled with respect and with gratitude; creation is not seen to develop humanity but to impoverish others; creation becomes a weapon of greed.”
“We know that a lack of fraternity or caring for other people co-exists with behaviours and practices that damage creation,” Cardinal Tagle said.
Father Andrew Kaufa told Timescape Magazine that the Church in East Africa has been doing the best it could to safeguard the environment, but its efforts have continued to be curtailed by human disregard for the environment.
“A survey which AMECEA Secretariat conducted in view of the plenary showed that almost all conferences have tried their best to pass the message of Laudato si but also to translate the message into concrete actions such as mobilizing people to plant trees or allow tree regeneration; teaching people new agro and energy technologies and advocating for banning of the use of thin plastic and plastic water bottles. However, little has been achieved as people have not really changed. “
“Without judging anyone, this is a pointer to the fact that more ought to be done by the church and other faith leaders in collaboration with governments and other stakeholders,” the priest notes.
The President of Tanzania, Samia Suluhu Hassan signalled her country’s readiness to take the bishops’ message seriously.
“It is encouraging that Pope Francis has seen it important to direct our focus towards the protection of mother earth which he refers to as our common home,” the President said in her July 9 statement to the bishops.
We will look into resolutions that the Catholic Bishops will arrive at and incorporate some in our own environmental strategies,” she said.