On 29th November, 2014, CYNESA brought together 34 participants from across Nairobi and its environs for an open day at the St. Paul’s University of Nairobi Chapel’s hall. The participants represented 21 Catholic parishes from as far as Thika deanery and as close as St. Paul’s UoN. Of great significance was that the participants were not exclusively Catholics, but included believers from different churches. This was attributable to the fact that CYNESA welcomes all youth and partners from across the global divide and the only polite understanding is that they appreciate that CYNESA is rooted in the Catholic faith and Catholic Social Teachings.
The Emcee for day, David Munene, called the gathering to order at around 09:37. He then invited the CYNESA core team members to introduce themselves. David proceeded to invite Mr. William Kimaya, who was representing the Catholic Archdiocese of Nairobi Youth Council, to lead the gathering in the opening prayer and give a welcome brief on behalf of the host archdiocese. Mr. Kimaya expressed great interest in the efforts CYNESA was making in offering an African, faith-based, youth-led response to the challenges of environmental degradation.
Allen Ottaro, CYNESA’s Founding Executive Director, gave an organisational overview of CYNESA and encouraged the youth present to join the network and participate proactively and actively towards the common good.
The CYNESA open day was also honoured to have Mr. Herman Kwoba who works with the Ministry of Environment and is the coordinator for the African Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC). Herman inspired the youth to take up the challenge of voicing the ecological concerns around them by engaging in constructive advocacy. Herman’s presentation began with an exercise where participants had an opportunity to define the term advocacy in their own terms. Herman helped the participants in familiarising themselves with climate change policies. These included action of the NCCAP (2013-2017) with focus on low carbon climate resilient development, mainstreaming climate change response, research, education and knowledge, and climate change governance. He argued that climate change governance entails mainstreaming issues of gender, youth, and special needs’ groups in climate change actions.
Herman also touched on the environmental policy, the green economy strategy, UNFCC and COP 20, CBA 9, Environmental Campaign 2014, the challenges faced and the proposed way forward. The challenges he mentioned included interest in policy, institutional set up, mentorship gap, and financing. Among his recommendations for the way forward, Herman cited the great need for the youth to understand what is required, honesty of efforts, effective coordination, and research especially in REDD+, Carbon Credits, and REs.
L-R: Allen Ottaro, Wangechi Mugo, Fr. Pedro Walpole, SJ, Edna Karijo and David Munene
The guest speaker for the day was Fr. Pedro Walpole, SJ from the Philippines. Fr. Pedro is the director of research at the Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines and coordinator of Environmental Science for Social Change and Reconciliation with Creation for the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific. He was in Nairobi as the lead facilitator of a training seminar on Ecology in Nairobi organised by the Jesuit Africa Social Centres network (JASCNET), from 24th – 28th November, 2014 where CYNESA was represented by Allen Ottaro, Ann Kirori, and David Munene.
Fr. Pedro engaged the youth in an insightful presentation about the need to heal a broken world as a transformation of mission and ecology through an attitude of gratitude and simplicity, grounded in caring and capacity to engage. He underscored that the “ecological crisis is no longer about how much we know, but being consciously aware of the damage done and challenge to change.”Fr. Pedro argued that while the signs of the times – planetary boundaries, social and economic exclusion, and inexpression of the human spirit. However, he instilled hope and motivation in the participants by focusing on the fact that all of us have “the intellect and spiritual discourse to see ecology as mission and have the heart to heal.”
As Catholics, Fr. Pedro argued that we are all invited to live out an ecological vocation as a mission. He illustrated the option of a healthy lifestyle and inspiring attitude in society as follows:
Source: Fr. Pedro Walpole
Reiterating that global sustainability is a prerequisite for human development at all scales from local community to national and the world economy, Fr. Pedro offered a simple formula of 3-6-9 to remember. The numbers represent temperature rise in degrees, the sixth extinction, and the global population respectively.
Fr. Pedro also contextualized his presentation to the environmental concerns in Kenya and focused on pollution, deforestation, poaching, and water crisis. He also engaged the participating youth in sharing on the challenges they face. Offering practical case studies from Mindanao, Philippines where he has been working with the local community, Fr. Pedro also asserted that there was need to engage students in transformative education. According to him, transformative education “recognizes the need to go beyond academic boundaries to improve the capacity to integrate knowledge at many levels” and “seeks to get away from textbook learning; to get into the community, to provide a lived understanding and a basis for action”.
In his parting shot, Fr. Pedro encouraged the youth to:
1. Uphold a clear and simple human spirit
2. Connect self with life and some place in the landscape
3. Join a local action and talk about it as a sign of hope
4. Join an international concern, keep aware of what is happening and share the informed concern
CYNESA remains grateful to Fr. Edwin Hunja (youth chaplain for the Archdiocese of Nairobi) and St. Paul’s for hosting and supporting the open day, Edna Karijo for being the CYNESA communications’ champion, Rukuz Productions for the camerawork and the talented, informative, intriguing, entertainment.
By Mr. David Munene, Programs Manager, CYNESA-Kenya