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Afcast Environment Booklet


The African Forum for Catholic Social Teachings (AFCAST) wishes to thank MISEREOR Aachen, for financially and morally supporting the project right from the beginning. Several AFCAST partners are themselves supported by MISEREOR. Dr. Volker Kasch, of the MISEREOR Southern Africa Consultancy Service based in Harare, has been very supportive of the AFCAST Project as is demonstrated by his attendance and contribution to the success of the Lusaka Workshop. The AFCAST Workshop at which the papers in this booklet were presented was hosted by the Jesuit Center for Theological Reflection (JCTR) in Lusaka, Zambia. We are grateful to the Director, Fr. Peter Henriot, S.J. and the staff of JCTR for logistical help and to JCTR for making a local financial contribution to the organization of the workshop. All the people who attended the workshop in Lusaka, at the busy time of the celebration of Zambia’s 40th anniversary of independence made the workshop a success. Gratitude should also go to members of the Working Group of AFCAST who continue to volunteer their time, skills and inspiration towards the visibility of the social teachings in their respective countries, the regions of Eastern and Southern Africa and the world at large. Special mention must be made of Sr. Janice McLaughlin, the Chairperson of the AFCAST Taskforce for Media Production for leading the process of publication of this booklet. Mrs. Dadirai Chikwekwete, the Administrative Assistant at AFCAST was responsible for the logistics of the workshop and for the publication of the booklet. AFCAST is also grateful to Roger Stringer of Textpertise for his help and professionalism in publishing this booklet.

1. Introduction Dr David Kaulemu,Regional Co-ordinator for Eastern and Southern Africa

Catholic Social Teachings have been described as the best kept secret. Many Catholics are not aware of their existence. Those who are, have not been enthused to implement the teachings. Even the “people of good will” who have often been addressed by the papal encyclicals and various other church public statements and teachings have hardly responded. Yet the richness of the social teachings and their relevance to the African situation cannot be denied. It is this richness and relevance which inspired the formation of the African Forum for Catholic Social Teachings (AFCAST) by people who are convinced by the potential of the social teachings to help social transformation in the spirit of faith and justice. Therefore, AFCAST was formed to help contextualize, popularize and dialogue on the social teachings in the context of the need to transform the African Church and society.

The forum brings together Catholic individuals in the regions of Eastern and Southern Africa, who have been working in the area of the social teachings. It is an opportunity for sharing experiences and strengthening one another as the social teachings are made more visible in the regions. With financial and moral support from MISEREOR, AFCAST aims not to act as an implementing agent of the social teachings, but to act as a think-tank on the social teachings in the regions of operation. One of the ways the forum has been able to encourage the visibility of the social teachings is through organizing workshops on topical issues in the regions. These workshops are organized twice per year in each of the countries participating in the forum. The aim of the workshop is to discuss an issue that is critical to the host country with critical people and organizations working on the issue in the country being invited to the workshop. However, the major value added by the workshop is the focus on the social teachings as the prism through which the issue is analysed and discussed. The workshops are aimed at encouraging relevant individuals and organizations to appreciate the relevance of the social teachings on issues of their concern. It is also to encourage recognition of African experiences as informative of the social teachings themselves. In this spirit, the following workshops were organized by AFCAST since October 2001.

October 2001: Launch of AFCAST Zimbabwe; July 2002: Elections and Good Governance Kenya; October 2002: Poverty and Poverty Eradication Zambia; March 2003: The Land Issue South Africa; October 2003: Corruption Tanzania; March 2004: Child Defilement Zimbabwe; October 2004: The Environment Zambia; March 2005: Good Governance and the role of the Church South Africa.

This booklet puts together the papers presented at the AFCAST Workshop held in Zambia on the environment. Fr. Roland Lesseps S.J., of Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre in Lusaka gave the keynote address. His paper challenges AFCAST and all who are inspired by the social teachings to widen their vision. He argues that “Catholic Social teaching has been human centered, anthropocentric”. It implores us to “expand our vision to include other creatures in our concern” by recognizing that “we must change our human family’s interaction with the other creatures on earth”. The paper emphasizes the link between the human family and the rest of creation and the need to develop lifestyles that respect these links and the need to “Live more simply so that others may simply live”. The paper then goes to identify theological principles that help to enlarge our vision. This vision is illustrated using the example of the issue of genetically engineered crops.

After setting the tone of discussion, three country reports were given. These were from Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. The idea was to identify and discuss the major issues on the environment in these respective countries. The reports also reflected how the church and other church organizations were responding to these issues. In her article Sr. Janice McLaughlin discusses “Environmental Crisis in Zimbabwe”. She begins by explaining the debate on the controversial “fast track resettlement programme” in Zimbabwe. She explains the need for land reform in Zimbabwe and how the “fast track programme” has not captured the wide vision of respect for the human family and the rest of the environment. However, Sr. Janice McLaughlin points out that “Even without the complications of a chaotic and unplanned land reform, Zimbabwe was already experiencing environmental problems.” However, she identifies positive developments that could be the basis for hope for the respect of the environment in Zimbabwe. She describes how the Zimbabwean government has made effort to introduce relevant legislation. Her paper looks at how the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops have responded through pastoral letters and how they have encouraged greater respect and collaboration with African traditional religions which have a “cultural heritage, which includes a profound religious sense, respect for life, veneration of ancestors and a sense of solidarity and community”. Silveira House, a Jesuit organization where she works, is in its leadership programmes working in this direction.

In a report on the situation in Uganda, Rev. Sr. Specioza Kabahuma picks up the theme of “basic theological principles of the environment alongside the African traditional sense and perception of the environment”. Her paper provides some historical background to the issues on the environment before going into the contemporary Uganda experiences. It then describes how the Ugandan government “has come up with an environmental legal and policy framework” and looks at the church’s response before making some useful recommendations for the future.

Fr. Pius Rutechura, the Secretary General of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference, gave the report on the experiences in Tanzania. His paper begins by explaining how “Tanzania is among the highly gifted countries in Africa in terms of environmental and ecological endowments”. The paper explains the Tanzania Environmental Management Act of 2004. He explains that “Our understanding and approach to nature draws inspiration from what is deeply embedded within the African culture with regards to environment”. However, the article identifies challenges that Tanzania is facing in dealing with environmental issues before looking at various activities of the Tanzanian Church in encouraging the social teachings.

The African Forum for Catholic Social Teachings hopes that this booklet will contribute to the discussion on the environment and help the development of a culture that respects God’s creation in all its manifestations. The booklet is a demonstration of our attempt to demonstrate the relevance of the social teachings to issues that concern our respective communities and how our African experiences can inform and enrich values and strategies suggested by the social teachings.

INTEGRITY OF CREATION AND CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHING Fr.Roland Lesseps SJ,Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre,Lusaka-Zambia.

I think we would all agree that Catholic Social Teaching has been human centered, anthropocentric. For example, the third AFCAST principle states that your activities are guided by the belief “that the Social Teachings should underpin development and pastoral activities which are based on concepts of social justice and human dignity.” The very title of our gathering here today indicates, however, that you see something is lacking in your guiding principles. We might also agree, then, that there is need to expand our vision to include other creatures in our concern, to search for the rightful place of humans among all the other members of the total earth community and to adopt an attitude of deep respect for all creatures on earth. A significant movement in that direction was already taken by Pope John Paul II in 1987 in his encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (The Social Concern of the Church). In paragraph 34 he proposes that the beings of the natural world also demand our respect and near the end of the encyclical he calls us all to take part in a campaign “in order to secure development in peace, in order to safeguard nature itself and the world around us.” Later, in his 1990 World Day of Peace message entitled “Peace with God the Creator, Peace with all of Creation”, the Pope develops at length the theme of respect for nature. However, even from the narrow, anthropocentric view we can easily see that we must change our human family’s interaction with the other creatures on earth, that we must change drastically and radically, simply because there is a fundamental link between us and the earth and because the way we are now proceeding is already damaging the lives of millions and millions of humans. Pope John Paul put it this way in his 1990 World Day of Peace message: “Modern society will find no solution to the ecological problem unless it takes a serious look at its life style. In many parts of the world society is given to instant gratification and consumerism while remaining indifferent to the damage which these cause… If an appreciation of the value of the human person and of human life is lacking, we will also lose interest in others and in the earth itself.” The basic reason for this link between us and the earth is of course that our human family is a member of the single, integral earth community. “We cannot have a healthy human community on a sickened, disintegrated, toxic planet” (Thomas Berry, 1982). We are not living inside a glass dome, as in some science fiction stories, isolated from the rest of the earth. Rather we are totally dependent on the earth and interact with it in many, varied ways. There are limits to what the earth can give, and there are limits to what the earth can take. The earth is not infinite. It is crucial that we recognize that human well being must be attained in harmony with our whole, single earth community. Since we are an integral part of this created order, “we must take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system which is precisely the ‘cosmos.’” (Pope John Paul Several investigators have produced a way to clearly and powerfully illustrate the impossibility of our continuing to live on earth in the way we have been doing over the last century. Their Ecological Footprint measures how much biologically productive land and water area a population (an individual, a city, a country, or all of human family) requires for the resources it consumes and for absorption of its waste, using prevailing technology. This area produces our food, wood, and fiber, absorbs the carbon dioxide emitted by fuels we burn, and supports our buildings, roads, airports, and playgrounds. In 1999 there were about 1.9 hectares per person, but the ecological footprint of all humanity was 2.3 hectares per person. This “ecological overshoot” began in the 1980’s, and since then the natural capital – those assets on which current and future human generations depend – has been steadily declining. These calculations are made without reserving any land for the other 10 million species with whom we share this planet. It is very difficult to determine how much biologically productive area we should reserve for the other species. Some ecologists propose that we reserve at least 10% and others at least 25%. Leaving some space for other species will, of course, make the ecological overshoot even larger, because it will reduce the amount of bioproductive area available for human use. Kofi Annan recognizes the importance of biodiversity (all the variety of life on earth): “Biological diversity is essential for human existence and has a crucial role to play in sustainable development and the eradication of poverty.” Our human family is not now, and has not been for almost twenty years, living sustainably on earth. Our consumption and waste production patterns exceed the capacity of the earth to create new resources, absorb waste, and maintain a stable climate. The ability of our earth to support future life is declining. We are robbing from the future generations to support our current lifestyle. So that others may simply live and increase their consumption of natural resources, we who are contributing so much to ecological overshoot must begin to live more simply, putting significantly lower demands upon the earth’s biological resources. Realize that in the familiar statement “Live more simply so that others may simply live” the significant word “others” should include future generations of humans and of the millions of other living creatures on earth. If those of us whose ecological footprint is above 1.8 hectares do not walk more lightly on the earth, consuming less and wasting less, there is no way in which the poor will be able to have their just share of the earth’s limited resources, and there is no hope for the survival of the rich diversity of living creatures on God’s beautiful earth. This close link between humans and the earth is especially true for the poor. The poor and the powerless suffer the most from environmental degradation. Even though all human beings, the wealthy as well as the poor, suffer from environmental deterioration, it is the poor who are most affected by deforestation, soil erosion, pollution of rivers and city streets. This is true in a special way for the rural poor, whose lives are so intimately tied to the natural resources on the land and in the water of their environment. If streams run dry the wealthy can have bore holes dug or water brought in by trucks, but the poor cannot. Therefore any good program of social justice will be environmentally sound. If in any social justice program we isolate people from the earth and pretend we are working for the poor while ignoring what is happening to their life-support systems, i. e., to the soil, water, air, plants and animals, we delude ourselves and them. So the fundamental option for the poor in CST must guide us in evaluating any program or policy for its effect on the poor and the environment.

THEOLOGICAL PRINCIPLES that help us enlarge our vision beyond the human community to include all of creation.

A fundamental theological principle to guide us in our relation with the other creatures in our earth community is that all of God’s creatures have intrinsic value, in and of themselves. Nature is not just useful to us humans, but is valued and loved in itself, for itself, by God in Christ. One scriptural basis for this appreciation of all creatures is in Genesis 1: “God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it was very good.” This is an amazing statement, points out Sallie McFague (Super, Natural Christians, p. 165, 1997). “God does not say that creation is good for human beings or even, more surprising, good for me, for God, but just good, in fact very good. God is saying that nature is good in itself - not just good for something or someone but just plain good. It is like a parent saying to a child, ‘I love you just the way you are,’ or lovers saying to each other, ‘I love you because you are you.’ God’s pronouncement here is an aesthetic one: appreciation of something outside oneself, in itself, for itself. The writer of the first chapter of Genesis leaves no doubt that the goodness of creation is its message: it is repeated seven times in the space of 31 verses. How have we missed this?” We must shift away from the old, anthropocentric view of creation to an appreciation of creatures as valuable in themselves and loved by God. We who are made in God’s image ought to reflect God’s attitude toward nature: appreciation. Another theological affirmation about creation is that it is sacred. Why? God dwells in all creation, and all creatures participate in the Divine Goodness. “The world is charged with the grandeur of God,” wrote the poet Gerald Manley Hopkins. St. Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologiae (Part I, Question 47, Art 1), put it this way: “God brought things into being in order that the divine goodness might be communicated to creatures…The whole universe together participates in divine goodness more perfectly, and represents it better, than any single creature whatever.” God labours in all creatures, continually calling them out of chaos and nothingness. A third theological principle about creation is already hinted at by St. Thomas in the quote above. God reveals Godself to us in all the creatures of the universe. Meister Eckhart expressed it this way: “Every creature is a word of God and a book about God.” To eliminate any species is to destroy a mode of divine presence and communication with us, and so to deprive our spiritual lives. The rate of extinction of species of organisms on earth due to human activity is accelerating. Estimates of the current rate of extinction range from 20,000 to 100,000 per year. We are essentially telling God we do not want to hear what God has to tell us about Himself in these creatures. A final theological principle that helps us guide us in our relation with the other creatures in our earth community is that as followers of Jesus we are to imitate him, to walk his path. Jesus lived a very simple life. He did not put heavy demands at all upon the earth. It is impossible to imagine Jesus dashing about Palestine in a fancy chariot pulled by four horses or living in a luxurious palace. In his preaching Jesus denounced the greed which is at the root of our justice and ecology crises. What would Jesus say about our present models of development? Has not “development” of the modern type with its pursuit of growth-oriented economies led to social injustice and environmental devastation? Pope John Paul, in his 1990 World Day of Peace message, said that “simplicity, moderation, and discipline … must become a part of everyday life, lest all suffer the negative consequences of the careless habits of a few.” Mahatma Gandhi put it this way: “The earth has more than enough to supply the needs of all, but not enough to satisfy the greed of all.” The challenge now for CST is to incorporate these theological principles into its thought so that CST may awaken the Christian community to the evil of our powerful attack on the community of life: thinning the ozone layer, “poisoning the air, water, and soil, altering the climate, denuding forests, destroying wetlands, and driving thousands of species to extinction” (Jane Blewett, 1996). “Can CST enlarge its parameters beyond the human community to incorporate all of creation as its core concern?” (ibid.) Can CST expand its vision to include the dignity of every creature? Can it see that the poor include whole ecosystems like the rain forests struggling to survive against the human onslaught arising from our technological power and greed? ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS FROM A TANZANIAN PERSPECTIVE