Integrating Biodiversity in Pastoral Engagements: A Reflection on Laudato Si’

By Rev. Fr. Dr. Evarist Ankwasiize, AJ

From conception to death a human person is able to survive due to provisions of nature as provided by our mother earth. Human interaction with nature is a product of personal choices and some are a product of incidents. Our life changes are affected by our environment and other creatures that nature has provided. Humans are called upon to adapt to environment they live and in doing so need to preserve their continuity. Opportunities provided by mother earth play an important role to human health and survival.

Effects of floods in Maziba, Kabale, Uganda (May 2020)

The continent of Africa with her vast biodiversity represents 20.2%, as illustrated by Julien Cordier (Director for Africa Development at Biotope), Research office on the environment, natural areas, fauna and flora in an article published in May 2019 entitled “Africa is not immune to the rapid global diversity loss”. Africa that is housing a quarter of the global mammalian specie, a fifth of the bird species and a sixth of plant species is quickly losing them at a pace unprecedented. The preservation of African biodiversity and ecosystems is the preservation of the future of Africans and of great importance in the global sustainable development agenda. Biodiversity depletion affects negatively climate and could lead to losses of plant, birds and animal species with far reaching repercussions on fisheries, food security, tourism and marine diversity as a whole.

This virtual workshop organized by on 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th June 2020 awakened in me to appreciate in a more vivid way Laudato Si’, “Praise be to you”, an encyclical by Pope Francis, the head of Catholic Church, has is part of the church’s social teaching, provides a concrete foundation for the ethical and spiritual aspects of the ecology and its preservation. The encyclicals analysis on the need for Eco-spirituality with its roots firm on religious environmentalism has become clearer to me. Francis in Laudato Si’, when lamenting pollution, climate change and an overall decline in “culture of life” is blowing a clarion call for ‘the greening of the religion”. I see this as my vocation and a vocation for all humans. Given the universal nature of our common home, the workshop assisted me to use the encyclical as a vehicle to “enter into dialogue” with all people who are “united by the same concern” [LS 3, 7].

In my preaching and apostolates, I intend to bring to consciousness that treating the earth in a destructive way is – unethical, nonreligious and inhuman with theological dilemmas. I will advocate for some tough political decisions that need to be made on constraint of consumption and development of pollution controls. I will, in word and action, be an agent of change to let life in all its created form to flourish, to see to it that diversity is celebrated and equity and justice thrive. Our world views need to change to see the earth as a sacred stage and embrace our kinship with earth. With intense communion with humanity and I will do all in my powers to preserve, cherish and respect the whole of creation. I agree with Cordier  (2019) integrating biodiversity and ecosystem services into policies and measures at different levels is therefore essential and consistent with the functioning of traditional polycentric governance on the continent.

Rev. Fr. Dr. Evarist Ankwasiize, AJ is a Catholic priest and a perpetual Member of Apostle of Jesus Religious Missionaries (since 2002), a Senior Lecturer and a Ugandan Clinical Counselling Psychologist registered with Uganda Counselling Association (UCA/228/REG.YEAR 2011) and Uganda Council of Psychology (2015). He is the Dean of the Faculty of social sciences and psychology of University of Kisubi.

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