Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa (CYNESA) on appointment visited Bishop Joseph Obanyi of the Catholic Diocese of Kakamega Diocese on third of August, 2018. Led by CYNESA’s Founding Executive Director Allen Ottaro, the Programs Manager David Munene, Hellen Mugo and Celestine Otieno of the CYNESA secretariat. The objective was to identify opportunities to engage young people from the western part of Kenya particularly in Kakamega Diocese on care for creation.
Mr. Allen Ottaro explained briefly the framework and operations of the organization and the ultimate goal of empowering young Christians to achieve social-ecological justice. His Lordship expressed his gratitude and willingness to support the organization on increasing awareness on Laudato Si and helping the local community understand their responsibilities to environmental conservation.
Giving an account on social-ecological problems in the diocese, His Lordship comprehensively appreciated Kakamega forest as one the tropical rainforests protecting the equatorial regions in Kenya. In his speech, he was concerned by the rate at which the forest is facing serious degradation, though some restoration efforts had already been put in place. The local communities have not embraced such efforts since the livelihood of many depends on the forest resources. He was saddened by the rate at which the beautiful natural forest along the road is vanishing from the inside due to increased human population; poverty and unemployment. This has resulted in illegal encroachment, excision, charcoal burning and poaching for timber hence loss of indigenous species of plants and animals. In addition, His Lordship pointed out the social injustice that has been prevalent at Ikolomani, a constituency in Kakamega where gold mining is practiced. The indigenous inhabitants are still living in poverty despite the existence of the minerals. The people are left with highly degraded land and increased risk of landslides. Members of the community lack knowledge and capacity to protect their homes from the existing calamities.
On a pilot mission to advocate for environmental protection and social justice through the Holy Father’s encyclical, His Lordship identified four parishes within which the environmental impacts were prevalent. He recommended that engaging young Christians is critical in creating a platform for action to environmental rehabilitation projects as well as improving awareness at the local level. The diocese of Kakamega and CYNESA Kenya seeks to invest in the youth and engage them in a way they that understand and establish the sanctity of living with plants and animals.
Laudato Si is an important means of introducing a culture of consciousness to nature’s dynamics. Christians should not focus on self-righteousness alone but also integrate care for creation in enhancing spiritual nourishment. In his final remarks, His Lordship said: “We should all learn to live liturgy outside a church in caring for nature, the special gift from God.”
Intern, CYNESA Secretariat, Nairobi, Kenya.