In Kenya, National Environment Day Is an Interfaith Celebration
Interfaith cooperation on the environment is trending all over the world lately, and Africa is no exception. Kenya’s National Environmental Day will be well-attended by many active interfaith groups this Saturday, October 4. The celebration is in good company, occurring on the same date as World Animal Day, and the feast of St Francis of Assisi, the Catholic patron saint of Ecology.
Father Charles Odira Kwanya, chairman of the interfaith environment committee said, “We have been inspired as faith groups to have a faith-group environment day, from the Catholic Church side we chose October 4 as the best day. We realized the day was also symbolic to other faiths. It is also the World Animals Day.”
“Faith Commitments Towards A Living Planet”
The theme of the Kenya National Environment Day this year is “Faith commitments towards a living planet.” According to the event organizers, the day’s activities will culminate in the ceremonial planting of five tree seedlings, followed by a massive tree planting activity at Tangaza College in Karen, Nairobi.
Father Odira is also the National Executive Secretary of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops. Speaking to the Catholic Information Service for Africa (CISA), he noted that the environment is an important issue to various faith groups because “the doctrines and the teachings of the Bible, Quran among others all ascribe to God as a creator and a redeemer therefore making environment a unifying factor.”
Archbishop Okoth: “Has God Changed His Mind?”
The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) is admirably active on the environmental front. Just last week, at the Kenyan National Conference on Climate Change and Food Security at Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Archbishop Zacchaeus Okoth asked a very poignant question. Chairman of the KCCB’s Justice and Peace Commission, Archbishop Okoth questioned whether humanity has changed God’s plan on livelihood considering the effects of climate change and food insecurity.
“God told us he made the plants, animals and even man, and told them to multiply. Now we realize that the most places have become deserts, water is not available, food is not available. Has God changed his mind or have we changed God’s plan?” he posed. The Archbishop urged policy makers, including the government of Kenya, to act on the recent research findings on the effects of climate change and food insecurity.
Faith Groups Coming Together in Kenya
Various faith groups and environmental organizations are joining the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops for the upcoming Kenya National Environment Day. “When the faith groups come together,” Father Odira said, “it will push many people not to take environment for granted and this is very relevant to everyone else at this point in time when the world is facing serious environmental degradation.” The following groups, among others, are attending the celebration:
● The Franciscans’ Mother Earth Network (M-e-Net)
● Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA)
● Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM)
● The Baha’i community
● Total Kenya
● Kenya Forest Service (KFS)
● National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA)
● Kenya Organization of Environmental Education (KOEE)
● University of Nairobi (UoN)
● Kenyatta University
● Mount Kenya University Environmental Club
The Franciscan’s Mother Earth Network
The Kenya National Environment Day activities will take place at Tangaza College in Karen, Nairobi. It will be followed by a massive tree planting exercise organized by the Franciscan’s Mother Earth Network (M-e-Net) in Kajiado, a land owned by Tangaza College.
According to Eric Ogallo, a coordinator for Mother Earth Network, the organization together with Tangaza College has put in place the measures necessary for successful tree planting activities.
“The college has confirmed that the area now has electricity and have also sunk a borehole which would be ready in the next two weeks or thereabout in preparation for the tree planting exercise,” Ogallo told CISA.
One Million Trees Planted And More To Come
One of Mother Earth Network’s goals is to develop a culture of environmental conservation in Kenya through tree planting for supporting the sustainability of the country. They have already planted one million trees in Kenya, and are now expanding their tree planting programs to urban slums in an effort to create a clean environment with fresh air for dense urban populations.
They are also planting trees in schools as a way of reaching out to the young people. In 2013, the group’s first tree planting exercise was held at Jamhuri high school in Nairobi where over 1000 tree seedlings were planted.
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