Today March 17, 2016 a one day session of workshop took place in Halleluiah Training Center of Shyogwe Diocese. This session is one part of a great international workshop organized by Rural Development Inter-diocesan Service (RDIS) under the sponsorship of the United Evangelical Mission (UEM) and Bread for the World (religious organizations based in Germany). The workshop is axed on “the role of churches in addressing climate change” and is taking place in Rwanda, from 16th to 18th March 2016. Participants come from Rwanda, D.R.C, Tanzania and German.
Opening the session of today in Shyogwe Halleluiah Training Center, the Bishop Jered underlined the role of the church in addressing climate change issues. His speech is summarized in the following paragraphs:
Dear UEM Representatives here present;
Distinguished guest from Germany, D R C, Tanzania, and elsewhere;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Greeting in the name of Jesus Christ our savior!
First of all, allow me to thank God for enabling us to reach here safely and let me take this great opportunity to welcome you all in Shyogwe Diocese.
Furthermore, I wish to thank UEM for the golden relationship that we have as the Anglican Church and Presbyterian Church of Rwanda and other Churches in Africa. I can assure you that it is yielding greatly in strengthening the Church and I hope it will further help more in as long as holistic ministry is concerned.
Let me use this chance to thank R.D.I.S for the good work that they are doing in terms of community and church development in general and especially in addressing the climate change issues. Regarding climate change, everyone may be frustrated by the consequences of the destruction of the environment and I would like to further my gratitude to all different actors who played a great role in organizing this workshop on “the role of churches in addressing climate change”. It might help us to share experiences on how we can play our role in environment protection. The stove project under RDIS shall be a good example of many measures that can be taken to protect the environment. This project seems to be very important as it will reduce the cutting down of trees for firewood and charcoal. The project will have a good impact on environmental protection as it will:
- Ensure sustainable and equitable use of resources without degrading the environment or risking health or safety;
- Prevent and control degradation of land, water, vegetation and air;
- Conserve and enhance natural and man-made heritage, including biological diversity of unique ecosystems;
- Improve condition and productivity of degraded areas;
- Raise awareness and understanding of the link between environment and development;
- Promote individual and community participation;
- Promote international cooperation;
The climate change may cause troubles to human being. I would like to share one of my frustrations. I have born in the center of Rwanda where there is neither no lake nor rivers. The miracle of the environment is that I know to swim since my childhood. Why? Because together with young boys of my age we used to go in the valley which was generally full of water especially after the rain and we learned to swim. In these I went back there, instead of seeing water in the valley, it was dry, the children were playing football. So that was the effect of cutting trees and so shortage of water and climate change I suppose. It is a pity those young people will never have chance to know to swim like me. The water has gone.
Thus, it is the responsibility of the Church to take care of the environment as the bible say in Genesis 2:15 “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”
God gave mankind a command and told him that he must tend or keep the garden. The Hebrew word for “tend” or some translations say “keep” it is “shamar” and it means more than just keep it. The Hebrew word means “to guard” or “to watch and protect.” The other Hebrew word in this verse that’s very important is the word “work” or as some translations more accurately say “to cultivate” and is from the Hebrew word “`abad” meaning “to serve”. Consequently, Genesis 2:15 would better read as: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to serve it and to guard and protect it.” That means that we are stewards of the earth and the Master will require of us an account on how we’ve been stewards of what He has given us. So far, it’s not been good stewardship to say the least.
Therefore dear brothers and sisters present today, we have a big responsibility to be good stewards and take care of the environment since Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few: Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude.
It is our task to fight against climate change because it destroys the creatures of which we are part. We have to continue thinking big on what else can be done to protect ourselves and the things around us form the danger caused by climate change.
Yes, the Church has a better constituency hence the use of the platform to educate people on issues of climate change being very important. It is the churches’ responsibility to take the opportunity to speak about climate change and pass on the message of mitigation, adaptation and prevention of the effects of climate change in various communities in Africa. Church leaders must get involved in issues of climate change because it has become one of the greatest challenges in Africa and elsewhere in the world. More particularly, Africa is a religious place with a large following and hence the need for religious leaders strategically positioned to reach out to many people. Effects of climate change have had a negative impact on communities and finding a lasting solution needs concerted efforts by all.
To end, I would like to ask you to think about these important questions: at the end of this workshop, what should be the shape of our new climate policy? What can be considered as real outcomes of this workshop? What might be our future plans in addressing climate change?
May the Almighty God continue to bless and to protect us all!