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'As people of faith we have no choice, we must': Bishop Zac urges action

November 3, 2013:

Bishop Zac speaking at the launch of UFNEA

In a world of fudge, compromise and half truths, Uganda’s Anglican Bishop Rt. Rev. Zac Niringiye offers a laser-sharp clarity that is as inspiring as it is challenging.

Bishop Zac, as he is fondly known, gave up his career as a physicist to enter the Church. In June 2012 he retired from his position as Assistant Bishop of Kampala Diocese to follow a new calling – the fight against corruption.

He has challenged Christians all over Africa to stand up and fight against practices that are “soiling the fabric of many countries” on the continent. As he says: “The problem with this world is this: some are eating from the top of the table, some are eating from underneath, and some are watching from afar.”

Bishop Zac has been called one of the foremost evangelical Christian thinkers/theologians today. So it was a great honour that he agreed to make the keynote address at the launch of the Uganda Faiths Network on Environmental Action (UFNEA) in Kampala last week.

Charcoal for sale on a Ugandan roadside. Bishop Zac said charcoal is now more commonly on sale than fruit and vegetables
God is not pleased

And in typical Bishop Zac form, he addressed the issue of environmental degradation and the failure of us all – including the faiths – to protect God’s Creation with searing honesty.

God is not pleased, he told around 160 participants, because what he sees is destruction rather than sustainable use of the environment.

“When children die the way they do in this country because of diarrhoea, because of dysentery, because of cholera, because of malaria, because of environmentally related diseases that are preventable, God is not happy,” he said.

“When trees are cut, consequently floods rage and then the waters overtake human beings and they die, God is not happy. The point I’m really making is God owns Creation. For us to pander to destroy it, to work it in a way that is not sustainable, is not pleasing to God, is not holy, is not actions of faith.

“Sadly, the people of faith, we have shown the world we don’t believe in God. Why? We say we believe in God but do not care about His Creation. We say we believe in God and participate in destroying what God has made.

One of HEAR Uganda's tree nurseries producing thousands of seedlings each year
“We say we believe in God and when it comes to speaking about nature, environment, creation care, hills and valleys, let me tell you we are complicit, sadly, in the process of destroying the beauty that God has made.”

Faith will save us

Yet if we have been slow to understand the dual responsibility of stewardship – to care for the land as well as working it – it is faith itself that shows us the way back to protecting Creation, he said, which is why the launch of the Uganda Faiths Network on Environment Action was so important.

“That is why this is a milestone event," he said. "That together from our different faith traditions we can say ‘we disagree on many things but we can agree on this. That this Creation, somebody owns it and it’s not us'. And you know He owns it for us, for posterity, for those who have gone before us. We can say that.”

This truth was a marker, he said: “This truth is the basis, is the ground on which we stand. It is the very ground of faith, it’s the ground on which we can stand and engage with courage and boldness about matters of the environment. It is big, it is crucial, it is important.

"We, therefore, of all people should be able to say we are committed to ensure Creation care, environment conservation. Why? Because we have a mandate, it behoves us from our faith in God."

Despite the challenges ahead, Bishop Zac said it was possible to reverse the degradation. “It is possible to clean our air, it is possible. It is possible to clean Lake Victoria, it is possible to plant trees.

"It is possible, we can. In fact, not only is that true, we must, we must. We have no choice. As people of faith, we have no choice. We must.”

Here is a fuller version of Bishop Zac's inspiring address.

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