African Sisters’ Action for the Environment

August 27, 2015

From Africa, a reflection from Sr.  Agnes Wamuyu Ngure cross-posted from GlobalSistersReport.org

“The rich grow richer, and the poor poorer. The desert, high temperatures and floods incomparable to that of Noah’s day all encroach us from every side; our natural habitation and all its wealth is decaying and we almost consciously see our end — but unfortunately to no, or only to minimal, alarm. Thus it has become a moral obligation to care for the environment.”

I am delighted about Pope Francis’ first papal encyclical, “Laudato Sí, on Care for Our Common Home,” our mother Earth. What kind of Earth will we leave behind? I feel this as a very strong invitation from Pope Francis to go beyond our immediate needs, our comfort at the expense of generations yet unborn, and consider the future of our human race and planet.

A view of the plastic-choked river that is Kibera’s main source of water. Many women make a living doing other people’s laundry in water drawn from it. (GSR file photo / Jill Day)

Anything I do has an impact on nature. Nairobi, sometimes described as the most modern and beautiful city in the region, has its own ugly tale: the heaps of garbage that are found in some slums like Kibera and Mathare Valley. Unfortunately this is not only a Kenyan story, it is a familiar site in most of the developing world. This is a constant reminder of the fading sense of dignity of the human person, for both the consumers who generate so much waste and for the people who live close to these garbage sites.

Sisters of Kenya celebrated World Environment Day June 5, starting with a blessing of some trees that were to be taken out for planting. Both local civil authority and the Catholic Diocese of Nakuru has demonstrated great willingness to collaborate with community groups like AOSK Justice and peace office to carry out peace initiatives that includes environmental care and conservation. Then a procession to the grounds where the trees were to be planted. (Provided photo / Courtesy of AOSK Justice and Peace Office)

This religious obligation has been overshadowed by the same gift given to us, the gift of human creativity and innovation. It is soiled by the fall, by Cain’s generation, his protest, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9). Human beings are torn between two realities, development and self-destruction. While we enjoy modernization, we bewail moral decadence. We celebrate connectedness in the global village and bewail social alienation. Families are at stake.

The rich grow richer, and the poor poorer. The desert, high temperatures and floods incomparable to that of Noah’s day all encroach us from every side; our natural habitation and all its wealth is decaying and we almost consciously see our end — but unfortunately to no, or only to minimal, alarm. Thus it has become a moral obligation to care for the environment.

St. Francis’ “Canticle of Creatures” invites us to give voice to creation to praise God, and through creation, to exalt in the creator: “laudato sí.” We must not interfere with nor silence creation; we shall be silencing ourselves. I wonder what alternative development we could be doing, what developers can undertake that would not destroy the environment?

Unless catechesis, homilies and school syllabuses at every level are environment oriented, nothing will change. We must use all available resources to develop and impart a culture that is environment oriented. Then there will be no littering, no felling of trees, no abuse of human life, and peace will prevail. And hopefully St. Paul’s dream will be fulfilled, creation will cease to groan at the revelation of children of God (Rom 9:18). Human nature too is groaning, awaiting liberation.

There is great hope that you and I have been touched by this papal encyclical and are ready to change our lifestyle.

After the tree-planting, there was a cake cutting to celebrate amid dance and song. (Provided photo / Courtesy of AOSK Justice and Peace Office)

[Sr. Agnes Wamuyu Ngure is an Elizabethan Sister currently serving as the executive secretary of the Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya.]