By Desdery Moses
Greetings dear brothers and sisters,
Last month, I and my fellow CYNESA (Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa) members—Allen and Anne from Kenya, and Tafara from Zimbabwe—had the opportunity to represent CYNESA at the Emerging Leaders Multi-Faith Climate Convergence, organized by Green Faith and Our Voices, in Rome.
After all meeting together in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), the CYNESA team and I arrived at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport Saturday, 27th June, the day before we would participate in the One Earth, One Family multifaith climate march happening the next day. After we arrived, Allen and I had the opportunity to help put together the artistic work that was to be used for the march. I was very lucky to be there as I had an opportunity to write one of the SWAHILI words, NISHATI MBADALA, on one of the banners we prepared; to me, this was a joyful moment!
On the morning of march, I and some of my fellow emerging leaders, gathered at St. Peter’s Square. We were there with our banners written in different languages and a green leaf-like placard with a prayer written on it. As for me, I had arrived there earlier to distribute the green leaves to people, so that when Pope Francis would show up at the Basilica, we would all lift up our green leaves, turning St. Peter’s Square green as a sign of supporting his encyclical.
However, the work of distributing the green leaves was not as easy as I had thought.
Some people thought we were selling them; others just ignored us, while others asked if we needed some help. Despite all these hardships, we kept on distributing the leaves. Since it was very hot and the leaves were free of charge, many people came to ask for them so that they could use them to cover their faces from the sun’s scorch. When the marching group arrived at St. Peter’s Square, almost everyone in the square had leaves; there were at least more than 1500 people I saw, majority coming in groups from different parts of the world.
At 12 noon, Pope Francis came out to a balcony at one of the top windows seen from the square to give his Sunday blessings to the audience and thanksgiving to all groups present there. He also acknowledged our presence as people of different faiths coming together to fight climate change and support his encyclical. This was one of the greatest achievements for my fellow Climate Convergence leaders and I, and everyone was happy on the outcome of the day.
Moreover, when all of this was happening at St. Peter’s Square, some of us from the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) were collecting signatures for the petition calling for world leaders to precisely address climate change and drastically cut down carbon emission.
It was a day of multi-faith climate action.
For the next three days, we spent our days at the Community of Sant’Egidio where different topics were presented. This was the time to hear the participants’ experiences on working with faith-based organizations and about leadership across different aspects like cultures, religions, and regions. As CYNESA executive director, Allen was one of the leaders who explained how he came up with the idea of CYNESA up to where we are today and what our future plans in Africa are.
We further learned about climate science, and had skills trainings on policy and communication skills which all widened my understanding—especially regarding climate science. The research showed vivid examples of the effect of climate change that we cannot deny.
In the Far East, some of the islands will no longer exist in the coming five to ten years.
Five to ten years.
We learned this in the most personal way from one of my fellow leader from Fiji who sadly explained to us the extent to which they are being affected by climate change. In her testimony, she was crying asking us if we can bring sand/soil to their country so as to prevent those islands from sinking. This was another lesson I learned:
There are people out there in this world who are severely affected by climate change in a way that we can not see in our regions and everyone.
After the discussions in the auditorium, we split into smaller groups to have plenary discussions on the topics presented. We learned more from each individual concerning the topic, but some of the matters were explained in detail during this plenary discussion. I never knew there were “climate refugees” until I met this young lady from Fiji and she told me the world’s first climate change refugees are from Tuvalu, Papua New Guinea and Kiribati Islands both found in Pacific Ocean. Due to sea level rise, the land starts to disappear and that is why she had asked for the sand from us. I really felt very sorry for her and for the people living in those islands and for all people who have to flee due to the effects of climate change.
To me, the Convergence was very successful. I extend my gratitude to the organizers for the huge preparations they made to make every participant feel comfortable. It was a great experience; people of different faith backgrounds and different cultures staying and eating together, sharing and singing together. To me that was indeed a blessing and I wish to have such a convergence in my country so as to keep that spirit within my community.
Last but not least, much thanks to my Executive Director Mr. Allen Ottaro and the entire team for their efforts in making sure our role of Caring for God’s creations is highly fulfilled within and beyond our borders.
Desdery is a Core Team Member of CYNESA Tanzania
Taken from the OurVoices blog
Photo Credits: OurVoices