Southern Africa Jesuit Provincial Urges Support for “poor” in Addressing Climate Change

Fr. Leonard Chiti. Credit: Courtesy Photo

A Catholic Priest at the helm of the Southern Africa Province (SAP) of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) has urged developed countries to support poor communities in addressing the challenge of climate change.

In his presentation during an online session that African Climate Dialogues (ACD) organized on food systems, agriculture and adaptation ahead of the planned 27th Climate Change Conference of Partners (COP27) scheduled for November 6-18 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Fr. Leonard Chiti said that while the poor bear the brunt of climate change challenges yet they “contribute less to greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global warming.”

“The people that contribute most to greenhouse gas emissions are the rich countries. Therefore, they have the moral responsibility to provide support, particularly in financial ways, to support those that are living on the front lines of the adverse effects Climate change,” Fr. Chiti said during the August 10 session.

He regretted the fact that the “poor, those who are poorly resourced and weak, bear the brunt of climate change.”

The Zambian-born Jesuit said, “So, here in Southern Africa, the message has been very simple. We need to support poor communities who are in fact the majority of our populations in Southern Africa. We need to support them to be able to adapt to climate change. Climate change is with us; we cannot pretend that it's not happening; we can see its effects.”


“In conformity with the Churches option for the poor, we as Jesuits, but also with members of the Catholic Church and other people of goodwill would like to direct our attention to the plight of the poor,” the SAP Provincial Superior said.

He cited the industrial model of agriculture as “a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, and a major driver of global warming.”

Fr. Chiti explained, “This model employs a lot of chemicals, which harm the soil and the environment leading to decreased food harvests. In addition, it is highly mechanized and therefore uses huge quantities of fossil fuels.”

In his August 10 presentation, the Jesuit Priest made reference to the Bible, saying, “Scripture reminds us that the environment is a true good created by God (Genesis 1) which should elicit praise rather than exploitation (Psalm 104). Powerful and vested interests such as agri-businesses and fossil fuel industries override public interest and cannot be left to drive the world into extinction.”

“The environment is a common good that should be protected from greed and preserved for all creation,” he further said.

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Fr. Chiti went on to highlight the challenge of food security. He said, “A decrease in food harvests will lead to greater food insecurity, and increased migration.”

“Food insecurity affects the poor the most. A damaged environment cannot support life – whether for the rich or the poor – all will perish. Catholic Social teaching is keen to see that the interests of the poor are protected,” the Jesuit Provincial Superior said.

In an interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Chiti said that the participation of Jesuits in the African climate dialogues is in line with the Society’s practice of “paying particular attention to what's happening to our common home, but also paying attention to what's been happening to those who bear the brunt of the climate change crisis.”

“We want to join with like-minded stakeholders, particularly in the Catholic Church in Africa, to prepare ourselves for the next big climate Change conference during November, COP 27”, the Jesuit Priest said during the August 11 interview.

The SAP Provincial Superior expressed his awareness of the climate crises experienced in Southern African countries and called on “Christians and people of goodwill do something practical to alleviate the suffering of those who bear the brunt of climate change.”


“In this part of the world in Southern Africa, we experienced the impact of climate change in too many ways. In recent years we've seen several flooding experiences coming out of Cyclones in areas, for example around the South-eastern seaboard, in places like southern Mozambique or eastern Zimbabwe, and we also experience effects of climate change through droughts”, he said.

The Zambian Jesuit Priest also called on members of Small Christian Communities (SCCs) to “show solidarity with those who are suffering”, by committing “ourselves to address climate change, but also to do something concretely to respond to the needs of those who are suffering the most.”

Sheila Pires is a veteran radio and television Mozambican journalist based in South Africa. She studied communications at the University of South Africa. She is passionate about writing on the works of the Church through Catholic journalism.