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Inspiring stories of faith eco action from Africa

March 30, 2011:

Faith and secular delegates outside the AACC

In Nigeria, children attending schools run by the Qadiriyyah Sufi Movement receive half their marks upon graduation from how well they have looked after tree seedlings.

In Tanzania, young people must first plant 10 trees before they can be confirmed. In Kenya, the Anglican Church is helping subsistence farmers to boost their crop production and feed their children by teaching simple, environmentally friendly farming techniques such as composting.

And in South Africa, a set of environmentally themed liturgical resources, from Biblical scriptures, hymns and even suggested sermons, has been developed to promote care for Creation in Anglican churches and Sunday schools.

These are just some of the inspiring environmental initiatives that Christian and Muslim faith groups from sub Saharan Africa heard about in Nairobi this week at a meeting that ARC director Martin Palmer described as “packed with ideas, commitments, passion and faith”.

In Nigeria, children attending schools run by the Qadiriyyah Sufi Movement are given two tree seedlings at the start of term – one to plant in the school orchard and another to take home. At the end of their school year, they are assessed on how well they have looked after their trees – and this contributes half the marks they need to graduate. “So it is very serious,” explained Yassin Garba Maisikeli. "The idea is to tie environmental responsibility into the child. We have 120,000 students in Qadiriyyah-run schools so we believe this will make a big impact upon society.”
More than 60 faith and secular delegates from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe gathered in Nairobi to hear an impressive range of action underway or planned by the faiths.

The two-day meeting at the All Africa Conference of Churches, was organised by ARC because 20 Christian and Muslim faith groups in sub Saharan Africa, who between them are responsible for millions of Christian and Muslim followers, have committed to developing long-term action plans on the environment.

The workshop looked at issues of sustainable land and water management, including forestry, food, farming and education, all of which will be crucial elements of the faiths’ long-term plans.

Rev Dr Andre Karamaga, General Secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches which hosted the workshop, told the leaders they had a faith mandate to care for the environment.

“I ask you to take this as God’s mandate,” he told the leaders. ”God has created this world and put us there to be stewards of this world, and in carrying out this assignment we are carrying out God’s mandate.”

A God-centred vision

Craig Sorley of Care of Creation Kenya said faith leaders had to “plant a God-centred vision for restoring degraded landscapes, in which caring for Creation was seen as a means of loving God”.

Sr Agatha
At the end of the intense two-day workshop, the overwhelming verdict from the faith leaders was that it had been hugely inspiring.

Sister Agatha, a member of the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Mercy order who was representing Rt Rev John Onaiyekan, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria, described it as “fantastic, a very successful workshop”.

She added: “I have learned so much and my first step when I go back home will be to set up a team to spread awareness of care of creation at every level, including schools, youth groups and women’s organisations.”

Also impressed by what he’d heard was Shafkat Pervaiz Sohal of the Muslim Education and Welfare Association, based in Mombasa, Kenya. “That’s why ARC, which works with all the faiths, is so important because through ARC we can network with other faith groups working on the environment and learn from other people’s mistakes and also from their successes.”

'Way to the heart of Africa is through faith'

Reuben Sinauge of Kenya-based National Environment Trust Fund, one of several secular environmental groups which also attended, said: “The two days I have been here really have inspired me.

“It has changed my mind about the environment and now I think it has a chance to survive. Because you are developing a vision of how to do it, and I see that it is from your conviction, because you are quoting from your scriptures and holy books as to why you should support environmental management to save the planet.”

Christians and Muslims make up 90 per cent of Africa’s population. “The way to the heart of Africa is through faith and faith will be the engine that changes the way Africa’s environment is managed by its own people,” said Martin Palmer.

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