One of our inspirational and favorite moments of 2019 was the encounter between our Executive Director, and Mario Obiora, a student at St. Francis Catholic Secondary School (SFCSS), Idimu, a Catholic school run by the North-West African Province of the Society of Jesus. During a visit to Lagos in May 2019, Allen Ottaro had the opportunity to visit St. Francis in the company of CLC Nigeria member, Nnanna Out, and thanks to the Administrator, Fr. Leo Maduabuchi, S.J, spoke with Mario, who is also a faith and justice advocate at St. Francis.
Highlighting how the school and students are putting the encyclical letter Laudato Si into action, Mario gave the example of the administrative block on the school campus, which is a green building. When you enter the school, the first thing you notice are the re-usable water bottles that the security guards are carrying. “Plastic is not allowed on school campus”, said Obiora. The compound is without a doubt a plastic-free zone. “We do not use fossil fuels in our school. We rely on the natural energy of the sun for our energy needs even though we are a small school”, he said. The beautiful campus at St. Francis provides for a wonderful learning environment. Highlighting the importance of tree cover, Obiora pointed out that “the trees in the school are not just for the beauty but for the environment. Trees are important because they take in the carbon dioxide and to balance the environment”, he noted, highlighting the significance of trees in carbon sequestration, and the importance of tree growing in addressing the climate crisis.
Obiora noted that one of the main environmental challenges in Nigeria is pollution. “Water pollution is killing people in many countries, for example due to oil spills”, and added that “pollution can reduce if we take care of the earth, because the world does not have to be a wasteland”. The faith and justice advocate also highlighted that recycling is an important aspect of addressing pollution, and that it is implemented at St. Francis. “We need simple reminders every day, about how to care for our environment”, said Obiora, whose key role as a faith and justice advocate at St. Francis is to get students to “stop environmental degradation little by little”.
His task, however, is not without challenges. “Some students do not listen to the message. But some are actually cultivating a fun way of caring for the environment. Students are gradually beginning to appreciate the environment more”, he said. When asked what keeps him motivated to go on even when some students do not heed to the call to be environmentally conscious and active, he said that he takes St. Ignatius as his role model, and has learnt the importance of gratitude, noting that “polluting the environment is ingratitude”, and that “we can build an environment that is safe for everyone so, let’s be grateful”.
Obiora dreams of a Nigeria where “we have enough renewable energy, a country where solar panels would be in every home, every homestead, a country where one does not see litter everywhere, a country that is green”. “God loves it when he sees that we are treating his gifts well. When we take care of creation it produces a bond that helps us to be closer to God”, he concluded.