Dear Sisters and Brothers:
Today, 5th June, marks the World Environment Day. World Environment Day reminds us of the damage we have done to our God-given Common Home and the action we need to take to heal it. As Pope Francis tells us, “Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years” (Laudato Si’ no. 53).
The theme of this year’s World Environment Day focuses on air pollution. Approximately 7 million people worldwide die prematurely each year from air pollution, with about 2 to 3 million of these deaths occurring in Africa. Ninety-two per cent of people worldwide do not breathe clean air. Air pollution costs the global economy $5 trillion every year in welfare costs. Ground-level ozone pollution is expected to reduce staple crop yields by 26% by 2030
This must change and it can change with concerted action. World Environment Day 2019 will urge governments, industry, communities, and individuals to come together to explore renewable energy and green technologies, and improve air quality in cities and regions across the world.
While we call on governments and businesses to explore ways of protecting the planet, we make a special appeal to all people of faith to help protect Our Common Home. Pope Francis reminds us that “Our relationship with the environment can never be isolated from our relationship with others and with God” (Laudato Si’ no. 119).The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in Africa sees a big opportunity among people of faith that can make a difference in the effort to protect the earth:
1. Houses of worship such as Mosques, Churches, Synagogues and Temples can lead by example by using solar energy for lighting and also supply the local communities with the surplus energy produced.
2. Faith Leaders can use Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and other holy days to pray and preach about and convey messages to the multitudes of faith followers to beat air pollution as part of their belief.
3. Globally 50% of schools are owned by faith-based organizations. Schools could also shift to using renewable energy and also communicate messages to pupils and students that can change their behaviour.
4. Faith-based organizations own 5% of commercial forests on earth. We encourage faith followers to plant more trees for every religious celebration they organise or participate in.
5. Religious groups can use faith practices such as the Lent, Ramadan and others to promote all year-long sustainable practices and less generation of waste.
Solutions to climate change exist and people everywhere are demanding action. Let us heed this clarion call.
Wishing you peace and every blessing in the Lord,
Agbonkhianmeghe E Orobator SJ
Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar
Prayer for World Environment Day
Creator-God, we thank you for giving us this beautiful land: we have sunshine, rain, and air to nourish earth, sea and sky. For our greed, our excessive exploitation and consumption of resources, polluting the air you have given to us, we beg for your forgiveness. Give us hearts to cherish your creation, so that we can work together to protect the land. We also pray for all countries in the world that they may work together to formulate better environmental policies to improve our atmosphere so that we can again see the life-force provided to the world through the growth of nature, and in so doing find a closer relationship with you. In the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen