Gustav Kpeyibor, SJ; Burka Usura, SJ – Nairobi, Kenya
The conference was jointly organised by the Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa (CYNESA); World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Regional Office for Africa; the Holy See’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the UN Environment’s Faith for Earth Initiative.
The gathering brought together about 360 participants from fifty countries including indigenous Catholic youth, representatives of other religious faiths, African environmental organisations and participants from different regions of the world. It was held under the theme, “Young People Caring for Our Common Home.”
Change is Possible
“The world needs more of your prophetic witness to denounce the inter-generational injustice that is underway and demonstrate that change is possible,” said Fr. Bruno Duffe, Secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. He delivered the speech on behalf of Cardinal Peter Turkson, who is the Prefect of the Holy See’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
In the speech, Fr. Duffe urged young people to learn from the example of the outspoken 16-year old Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg, who has staged protests about the urgency for immediate action against climate change. Greta has also inspired the school strike for climate movement.
“The healthy pressure by the student mobilisations is being noticed by politicians, who are the ultimate decision-makers that need to show the political courage needed to implement the Paris Agreement fully. I am encouraged about the participation of young Catholics in these mobilisations given the urgency of the situation,” said the Fr. Duffe.
UNEP: Pope Francis gives us hope
In her opening remarks, the Deputy Executive Director of UNEP, Joyce Msuya, stressed the urgency that must accompany action on climate change while noting that the world is experiencing “devastating floods, prolonged droughts, rapid melting in the Arctic” and scientific findings that “tell us that one million species are at risk of extinction,” she said.
Msuya said she remains hopeful in the face of the overwhelming reality of the impact of climate change. “Urgency, yes. Frustration. Even dismay – those are all there, too. But, the main feeling I have is hope. I find hope, for one thing, in the Pope, who has spoken out so powerfully about the climate emergency, and who has encouraged young people to drive a movement to make a difference.”
Msuya expressed hope “in the young women and men around the world who are drawing on both faith and science to campaign for change and to raise awareness about how to live more sustainably. They push us to act faster. Let’s work together; let’s be ambitious – it is only through collective action that we make a difference,” she emphasised.
Apostolic Nuncio urges responsibility for the well-being of humanity
In his closing remarks, the Apostolic Nuncio to Kenya and South Sudan, Hubertus van Megen, charged youth leaders to use modern means of communication to spread the message of Laudato Si’. He called for dialogue with other faiths and relevant philosophies despite differences.