East African Bishops pledge to respond to "the cry of the earth"
By Alessandro De Carolis
Droughts, floods, cyclones and other disasters. Africa is no exception to the wave of consequences that climate change is now registering at all latitudes. Noticing and responding is what the bishops of AMECEA, the Association that brings together the episcopates of the eastern part of the continent (Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan and South Sudan, Zambia, affiliate members Djibouti and Somalia) have decided to do. The commitment stemmed from the just-ended Plenary Assembly in Tanzania in which delegates from the member bishops' conferences participated. A meeting - which was also attended by the prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, Paolo Ruffini – and sealed by a paper articulated in eight points.
Cardinal Tagle: without integral development, fraternity suffers
Opening the statement is a quote from Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, among those invited to speak, who reaffirmed that "lack of care for others coexists with behaviors and practices that damage creation" and that "when integral care for creation is lacking " and "when integral human development is lacking, fraternity suffers." This is basically the message at the heart of the encyclical Laudato si', which formed the backbone of the meeting. In the eight points, the AMECEA prelates say they recognize "the existence of an ecological crisis that, to a large extent, is the result of human behavior" and whose extreme phenomena of environmental destruction "pose a growing threat to the socio-economic development" of countries in the area and to the "subsistence of the peoples" who inhabit it.
Best practices against neglect
Forests that are depleted by deforestation and not re-equilibrated by adequate replanting, poor regulation of mining, and general degradation due to neglect and exploitation are highlighted as situations from which to work to restore "economic justice" and "equity," beginning by promoting alternative sources of energy: solar, wind and other. The AMECEA bishops reiterate their willingness to collaborate with all institutional bodies, NGOs, and communities of other faiths in all initiatives aimed at protecting the environment, and to implement an intensive "awareness campaign" at a grassroots community level to raise awareness and improve communication with people" on these issues. This is a topic addressed by the Prefect, Paolo Ruffini who stated that good communication can foster the consolidation of "ecological citizenship." This awareness, he said, must start from the basic grades of education that can then go on to train young "ambassadors of good ecological practices."
Standing alongside those who are victims of environmental disasters
The statement concludes with a message of solidarity with people in the area that are affected by the "negative effects of climate change, such as floods." You are not alone, the bishops assure them, "in prayer and in a spirit of solidarity we are at your side in your struggles." And another thought is for communities affected by "conflicts and civil wars" such as Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and South Sudan, including wars "in other parts of Africa and the world," and for the vote scheduled to take place in Kenya on 9 August, that they may "free, fair, credible and peaceful elections."