Churches Partner to Preserve Tropical Forest in DR Congo, Appreciate Laudato Si’

Religious Leaders and other stakeholders at the end of a 3-day workshop in Kinshasa to Launch the interfaith initiative for the preservation of the tropical forest in DR Congo on Thursday Dec 5, 2019
Credit: Public Domain

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Catholic Church has partnered with the Church of Christ of Congo (ECC) to preserve the tropical forest in line with Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter ‘Laudato si’ which calls on the Church and the world to acknowledge the urgency of our environmental challenges and to join him in embarking on a new path.

Held at the headquarters of the Catholic Church’s National Episcopal Conference of the Congo (CENCO) in Kinshasa, the initiative was officially launched during the December 3-5 workshop that brought together religious leaders alongside other stakeholders to deliberate mechanisms combat tropical deforestation.

"This workshop contributed to strengthening our ecological responsibility by raising our awareness of the importance of protecting nature,” the Catholic Bishops' online newspaper Diacenco has quoted Archbishop Marcel Utembi of Kisangani as saying at the end of the workshop Thursday, December 5.

“It is in an interreligious context that we will get involved, in the light of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudoto Si, which promotes a culture of respect for forests and the people who live in it,” Archbishop Utembi said in reference to the role expected of religious leaders in the initiative.

The interfaith initiative for the preservation of the tropical forests intends to highlight the moral urgency and provide spiritual resources to global efforts to address climate challenge.

Drawing inspiration from the story of creation in scripture, the president of CENCO reminded participants at the workshop of the importance of caring for creation saying, “This account of creation shows us that trees in their diversity of species are essential for our lives and are part of the heritage of our common home which is the earth.”

He added in reference to the creation description in Genesis, “These words from the Bible are the first foundation for the Catholic Church's involvement in ecological issues.”

On his part, the National President of the ECC, Pastor André Bokundoa noted that the particularity of the initiative lay in “the spiritual and moral values embodied by religious denominations that underpin the protection of nature.”

"We are here at the level of considering the demographic weight of religious denominations to be able to relay the message to the grassroots," Pastor Bokundoa said and added, “The aim here will be to raise awareness among our populations and at the same time laying emphasis on the legal framework, especially with regard to improving the conditions of indigenous peoples.”

The religious leaders in attendance recognized the earth as God’s creation that deserves conservation for his glory and appreciated the urgency of preserving tropical forests for a better future.

"The purpose for which God created everything is His own glory,” Pastor Bokundoa observed and added, “the forest, which is part of God's creation, is also to be worshiped. Protecting the forest means protecting the glory of God and not protecting it, is refusing to worship God and recognizing his quality as a creator.”

The interfaith initiative is a platform for religious leaders and communities to work hand in hand with indigenous peoples, governments, civil society and corporations on actions that contribute to the protection of forests by protecting those who are the guardians.

ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]