Few things are as special as a gathering of 800 young people at the foothills of the highest peak in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro, on Holy Saturday, to share about how to live Laudato Si’. This Easter, I was privileged to be part of this special moment.
The Tanzania Young Catholic Students held their week-long National Easter Conference, at Marangu Secondary School, April 12th -18th. Under the motto, “150 Years of Evangelization in Tanzania: The Joy of the Gospel”, and the theme “Here I am Lord. Send me” (Isaiah 6:8), 800 youngsters led by their National Youth Chaplain, Fr. Liberatus Kadio, reflected on their role to evangelize to other young people.
Presiding over at the opening Mass, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Bukoba, Rt. Rev. Desiderius Rwoma, reminded the young people to care for creation, to be obedient to their elders, and to be faithful to the teachings of the Church.
The Encyclical Laudato Si’ featured prominently at the conference. Dr. Aidan Msafiri, a priest from the Diocese of Moshi who is also a Climate Change Ambassador for Tanzania, offered a presentation on Laudato Si’.
CYNESA was well represented by a team of 5: Eliachi Manga and Chihema Mhando, both alumnis of Loyola High School, Dar es Salaam, Rogers Mgonja and the CYNESA Tanzania Country Director, Desdery Moses. CYNESA Executive Director, Allen Ottaro, travelled from Nairobi to join the Tanzanian team.
The team interacted with the participants, and together, explored how young people can take concrete action in living Laudato Si’. Eliachi shared her experience of participating in the World Wildlife Conference, held in Johannesburg last year, and how it opened her eyes to the crisis caused by poaching and illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products. Tanzania is well known for her rich biodiversity, especially the wildlife in the Serengeti and other conservation areas. In the Selous Game reserve, an approximated 15,000 elephants remain, out of a population of about 110,000 in the 1970s, highlighting the gravity of the situation.
Chihema, Rogers and Desdery shared with the participants the need for young people to take an active role within the Church and outside, in environmental conservation and implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. Tanzania has not been spared by the impacts of climate change. The loss of glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro is evidence of the disastrous consequences as temperatures increase.
While I found the environmental concerns that were raised by participants to be quite challenging, I left with a tremendous sense of hope, energy and confidence, from the young people I encountered, and their commitment and enthusiasm to live Laudato Si’, in the way Easter rekindles in us the hope of a better world.
Founding Executive Director, CYNESA.