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Laudato Si Conference in Zambia

2016-7laudato-siA Laudato SI conference was held in Lusaka, Zambia from 24th to 26th April, 2016. The Conference was on “Care of our Common Home in the Context of Large Scale Investments: Mining and Agriculture.” It was organised by Caritas- Zambia and Jesuits Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) in conjunction with Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC) and Cooperating partners.

The Conference drew participants from all the Dioceses, Government departments/ministries, Civic Societies, NGOs among others. Almost all the Bishops and the Apostolic Nuncio for Zambia and Malawi were in attendance. There were about 200 participants attending the conference. Sr. Felistus Nyirongo was invited to the Conference to represent the Diocese of Monze. The Conference began daily with a prayer and presence led by a Bishop and the conference ended with a closing Mass celebrated by Cardinal Peterson.

The Conference was officially opened by His Grace Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu Zambia Episcopal Conference President. In his welcoming remarks he emphasised the need for Catholic Catechesis on the environment. He further added that there is need to develop a very Christian attitude towards creation and nature by everybody since we are all connected with creation and all have an obligation to Care for our Common Home. He thanked the Holy Father for making that earnest appeal and awakening all people of good will to take care of our Common Home.

In addition the Deputy Minister of Lands,  Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Sussana Kawanda said that the Zambian Government share in the concern of Pope Francis regarding Care for the Environment. She added that the Government is concerned about Sustainable Development and has put policies and strategies in place to ensure that the development does not compromise and destroy our Common Home. She said that since independence, the government is aware of the Church’s emphasis on the Promotion of Organic farming among Small Scale Farmers as evident in the various institutions like Kasisi Agriculture Research Centre and Caritas Zambia programmes. She also said that the challenge of Climate Change affects everyone and as such the Zambian Government joined the rest of the World by signing the Paris Agreement on Climate Change on 22nd April, 2016 to reassure the world of its commitment to address this challenge.

The Apostolic Nuncio to Zambia and Malawi, Most Rev Julio Murat officially opened the Conference. In his opening remarks the Nuncio stated that we should not only see ourselves as humans and here to dominate creation but that we all need to take care of Our Common Home for Sustainable Development. He added that the Pope not only condemns the destruction of nature but he sees hope that human beings reverse the situation and look for proper ways of Sustainable Development. The Nuncio made a call for all to change our behaviour towards Care of our Common Home.

The main speaker at the conference was His Eminence, Cardinal Peter Turkson President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. He gave an overview of Laudato Si, the key issues and message from the document. His Eminence discussed at length what was happening to Our Common Home. He stated that the Holy Father launched Laudato Si on 8th June, 2015. He pointed out that human beings do not share the gifts of creation. His Eminence added that according to the Social Teachings of the Catholic Church (STCC), our World was not an accident but that all are created in the image and likeness of God. He emphasised that the vocation of all is “to till and keep” the Earth…God’s gift to humanity as co-creators. He recalled that the Pope’s concern for the poor and nature is a threefold relationship as in Laudato Si:

  1. With God the Creator
  2. With other human person in a bond of fraternity
  3. With the World as the garden-home for our existence

He emphasised that the Earth was created to support human life and justice means we respect the relationship between humanity and creation. His Eminence continued by saying that responsibility is a requirement in the care of the Earth Our Common Home. Climate Change is the pattern of weather studied over a long period of time. Weather is the condition of the environment. Laudato Si is about human experiences not Climate Change but a social encyclical on environmental matters. His Eminence added that we need to be in tune with and in communion with humanity and creation. He emphasized Laudato Si calls us to responsibility, stewardship and care. To care is to let one be affected by what s/he cares for. The Worlds’ economy must reach out to creation with care both for the environment and humanity.

During the conference we were challenged to use the See, Judge and Act approach to Laudato Si. He challenged us to find solutions to the impact of Climate Change together in order to prevent the devastating effects of it and cause pain especially to the poor, to creation and to the next generation.