By Br. Alfonce Kugwa
As the rate of environmental degradation continues to escalate with serious implications on flora, fauna and marine life, humanity must take immediate action to avoid further damage to our common habitat. Pope Francis in his Encyclical Laudato Si’ says: “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.”
The Pope’s reflection reveals that humanity is responsible for the destruction of the environment and that it is through human effort that the same environment can be conserved.
As part of its contribution towards environmental management, the Zimbabwe Catholic Commission for the Laity (ZCCL) through the Catholic Professionals Network of Zimbabwe (CPNZ) have embarked on a Laudato Si’ campaign that seeks to encourage society to protect the environment. The project that is supported by the Apostolic Nunciature encourages people to practice environmental friendly ways in every business venture. Thus in the spirit of Laudato Si’ ZCCL through CPNZ seeks to raise awareness on the importance of conserving the environment, “Our Common Home”, as Pope Francis calls it. The project focuses on commemorating and publicizing Laudato Si’ in mainstream Catholic culture while encouraging young children and the youth to spearhead and take part in activities which involve caring for the environment in their communities.
The ZCCL Coordinator, Fr. Johane Maseko said the campaign was meant to bring awareness about Laudato Si’ and encouraged living the connection between environmental wellbeing and the gospel.
“This project is meant to empower people to ‘till and keep the paradise’ of our environment. The thrust is to help people to understand the nexus between taking care of the environment and prayer as alluded to by Pope Francis who said, ‘to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God.’” said Fr. Maseko.
With poverty and unemployment leading young people into illegal mining and other illicit ways of income generation, there is great environmental damage due to unorganised mining activities and deforestation. Forests are haphazardly cleared as “makorokoza” (illegal miners) scramble for the precious metal digging everywhere and anyhow, where they think they can get gold. A visit to places like Kwekwe, Gokwe, Kadoma, Bindura, Mazowe, Mberengwa and others is an eye opener on how the environment is being endangered. One would wonder if there is a future at all.
“We are forced into this situation because of poverty. We are unemployed. In actual fact, there is no employment. We have families that need food and the only means of survival is to come kumakomba (illegal mines) to look for gold. We have concern for the environment but there is nothing we can do,” said one artisanal miner in the outskirts of Kadoma.
The love for money has also contributed to the destruction of the environment. The slapdash apportionment of land by land barons for business and residential stands in urban areas has seen structures mushrooming in wetlands and other undesignated places while rural to urban migration has resulted in the overpopulation of cities. This has complicated hygiene standards for most urban areas in Zimbabwe with very little being done to upgrade the water and sanitation facilities. The upsurge in outbursts of sewer pipes, erratic supply of water and the sprawling of litter everywhere is cause for concern for the urbanites. It is from this background that the church through its arms seek to curb the menace of environmental pollution in the country.
With this campaign, the Church seeks to conscientise communities on the need to prioritise conservation of the environment by protecting the forests, wetlands, water bodies, wildlife and the ozone layer. The call also encourages planting of trees, proper treatment and recycling of litter and to stop the throw away culture that contaminates the environment and leads to climate change.