With funding from USAID’s Biodiversity Analysis and Technical Support (BATS) program of the Bureau for Africa, the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group supports engagement with faith communities on conservation. Through this initiative, ABCG works with its members the Jane Goodall Institute and World Wildlife Fund-US, as well as the UK-based Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC).
|Immam Ibban Iddih Kasozi, Vice National Chairman of the Uganda Muslim Youth Assembly, enjoying God’s creation at Nairobi National Park (c) J.Morgan/ WWF|
From 18-20 September 2012, ARC hosted the “Many Heavens, One Earth, Our Continent: African Faith Commitments for a Living Planet” conference during which faith groups from throughout sub-Saharan Africa launched their long-term plans for conservation. These plans are compiled in a volume of the same title. During the workshop, more than 100 participants gathered at the All Africa Conference of Churches Archbishop Desmond Tutu Ecumenical Centre for three days of celebrating the long-term conservation plans, as well as discussions of engaging faith communities, developing partnerships, sustainable agriculture, education, tree planting, the role of women, and illegal wildlife trade.
Celebration and storytelling were important components of the conference. Martin Palmer of ARC emphasized the importance of celebration in all faith traditions, and so the conference began with joyous recognition of the work and commitments of each faith group. Guest speakers included the President of the All Africa Conference of Churches, the Acting Ambassador of Norway, the UNEP Africa Region Permanent Secretary and school children from Muslim and Christian eco-schools in Nairobi. Tree seedlings were blessed with Muslim, Christian and Hindu prayers and were presented to Kenyan leaders at the conference.
|Faith leaders celebrate their commitments to conservation (c) N. Bailey /ABCG|
The plans focus on faith-based responses to the issues of agriculture practice, sustainable use of land and water and education on the environment in faith schools. They include:
Tree planting and agroforestry are important parts of many faith plans. For example, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania intends to set up 26 tree nurseries training over 200 women in tree nursery establishment, tree planting and agroforestry.
Many faiths have strong commitments to sustainable agriculture. One of these, the Abaja Ba Kristo (the Servants of Christ) agro-pastoral centre, run by a women’s religious congregation in Karongi Region, Rwanda, proposes expanding its farmer training in sustainable agriculture.
Water. sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects are also very important to many faith groups, as is environmental education from a faith perspective. ARC is working with the Kenyan Organization for Environmental Education and other faith groups to development an education for sustainable development toolkit for faith primary schools in Kenya that incorporates faith values, using eco-schools as a strategy for the curriculum of faith-based schools.
Islam, Christianity and African spirituality all have important ways of relating to the environment, and many faith groups have goals for education and community engagement. Mosques in Uganda are promoting Green Fridays – designated days for discussion and action on the environment. In addition, more than 10,000 Christian and Muslim congregations in Ghana will hold awareness creation workshops on environmental protection.
For more information on the faith commitments, click here: http://www.arcworld.org/projects.asp?projectID=563