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Synergize Activities, Resources to Address Environmental Concerns Globally: Catholic Nun

Sr. Olga Massango, a member of the Daughters of St. Paul (FSP) based in Kenya’s Archdiocese of Nairobi. Credit: ACI Africa

The need for pooling resources to address environmental concerns across the globe was emphasized over the weekend at virtual event in Nairobi, Kenya, organized to mark the sixth anniversary of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si’.

Organized by the Daughters of St. Paul (FSP) based in Kenya’s Archdiocese of Nairobi as part of the annual Laudato Si’ Week, the Saturday, May 29 event brought together panelists who highlighted various aspects of the 2015 Encyclical Letter, making recommendations for action in Africa and across the globe.

One of the panelists, Sr. Olga Massango, described Laudato Si’ as “the new appeal from Pope Francis addressed to every person living on this planet for an inclusive dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.”

“We are called to create synergies for a common action at an international level, to pool resources in resolving environmental issues and investing in structures that will better preserve Our Common Home (the Earth),” Sr. Massango said in her presentation on the theme, “Laudato Si’ and Pastoral Perspectives.”

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The member of FSP explained the value of creating synergies and pooling resources saying, “an interdependent world not only makes us more conscious of the negative effects of certain lifestyles and models of production and consumption which affect us all; more importantly, it motivates us to ensure that solutions are proposed from a global perspective, and not simply to defend the interests of a few countries.”

A common plan, Sr. Massango said, “could lead, for example, to planning a sustainable and diversified agriculture, developing renewable and less polluting forms of energy, encouraging a more efficient use of energy, promoting a better management of marine and forest resources, and ensuring universal access to drinking water.”

“Poor countries need to take a trajectory of development that is environmentally friendly. Poor nations with the help of the rich countries have to commit themselves to sustainable development,” the Mozambican-born Nun said.

“The International community needs to come up with enforceable laws on the environment,” she further said, and added, “Environmental sustainability must be a long-term plan and governments need to see beyond sectarian and short-sighted interests.”

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In order to heal the wounds of the earth, Sr. Massango said, “Developed countries must adopt a sober lifestyle by cutting consumption and embrace economic slowdown as a positive development.”

She called for an interdisciplinary answer to the environmental concerns saying, “Scientific evidence is not enough to resolve the problems faced by the environment. There is a need to complement with wisdom and of various religious traditions… since through their sensibility they have potential to open up new horizons of human consciousness.”

“Scientific research must be accompanied by the search of religious and aesthetical traditions capable of inculcating attitudes and reinforcing forms of behavior that respect the integrity of the environment,” she added.

In his presentation during the May 29 virtual event, Africa’s Program Coordinator of the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM), Fr. Benedict Ayodi, said that Laudato Si’ brings “the spiritual or moral voice to the environmental crisis.” 

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“We must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures,” Fr. Ayodi said, and added, “Our dominion over the universe should be understood more properly in the sense of responsible stewardship.”

He noted that a true understanding of the gospel of creation can enable us “read the Bible in new ways, with lenses that enable us to see the value of all God’s creation, to see how God loves creation, and to discern how God calls humans to a vocation of caring for creation as good stewards of the environment.”

“We are called to be good stewards of the environment. And so each and every creature is from God and it is the gospel, the gospel of Jesus Christ,” the Kenya-based Priest said.

On his part, the Director of the Justice and Ecology Office (JEO) of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM), Fr. Charles Chilufya, spoke about the relationship between Laudato Si’ and sustainable development.

“If we want to move from worst to better, what we will need is spiritual conversion,” Fr. Chilufya said in reference to the impact of development projects on the environment.

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The Zambian-born Jesuit Cleric noted that “we must be attentive to experience. We must see what is going on and be aware of what is happening. We see rivers dry, we can see people going hungry, we can see people going poor while others are getting too rich. God gives us those eyes and senses to see so that we may respond.”

Making reference to Pope Francis in Laudato Si’, Fr. Chilufya said, “We need a conversation that includes everyone since the environmental changes we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all… Everyone’s talents and involvement are needed to redress the damage caused by human abuse of God’s creation.”

He urged Catholics to engage politicians to put in place policies that “respect the environment and shape new lifestyles to safeguard our common home.”

Also speaking at the webinar, the Senior Political Advisor for Greenpeace Africa, Fredrick Njehu, highlighted the need for governments, corporates and other environmental stakeholders to put “people at the core of their development projects.”

Reflecting on the topic, “Ecological Crisis and Climate change,” Mr. Njehu said, “Environmental friendly initiatives should take into consideration inputs from the rural sector who feel the pain of climate change.”