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African Christians study water, food and climate justice in WCC Eco-School

Posted on: August 15, 2017 1:50 PM
Participants at the WCC’s first Eco-School in Lilongwe, Malawi.
Photo Credit: WCC Eco-School Newsletter

Young Anglicans were among an ecumenical group of Christians from across Africa who took part in a World Council of Churches (WCC) Eco-School on Water, Food and Climate Justice earlier this month in Lilongwe, Malawi. Some 27 people from Nigeria to Madagascar, and from Ethiopia to South Africa attended the 11-day event. The participants studied local, regional, and international manifestations and causes of the water crisis and food security affected by climate change. They examined the situation and challenges from a perspective of faith and ethics, and searched together for possible ecumenical responses to the challenges.

“The nexus between water, food and climate change is deep and directly impacts the sustenance of communities regarding their livelihoods and survival,” the WCC said on its website. “The adverse consequences of climate change directly impact ecosystems, agriculture, fishery, food security and the availability of water. Vulnerable communities are always at the receiving end when it comes to access to food, water and climate change.”

One of the Anglican participants, Ncumisa Magadla from Malawi, a member of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa’s Environmental Network, interviewed another participant for the Eco-School’s newsletter. Magadla said: “Food Security was one of the priority topics during the Eco-School. Bible studies, presentations and resources were given in light of connecting this major environmental issue with our faith, especially in Africa.”

She spoke to Azinwi Ngum from Cameroon, who said: “In a society where close to 800 million people go to bed hungry with more than half of this population being women and coming from developing countries, the eco-school program exposed some of the causes and implications of food security in the society, from health to poverty especially in developing countries.

“From the presentation from the various panellists, I noted that Africa is in a state of emergency with regards to food. There is general lack of concern with regards to people’s rights to food, and therefore knowledge on food as a human right is vital to people and communities to claim their entitlements.

“It should be noted that, close to 1.3 billion tonnes of food produced for human consumption is wasted.”

The Revd John Chima Orioha and Pastor Abeeku Budu-Acquah argued that the misuse and abuse of creation, leading to environmental catastrophes, was the result of a number of “wrong theological interpretations”.

These include escapist theology, which argues that we do not need to care for the earth because “heaven is our home while we are just pilgrims on earth”; and prosperity theology with its focus on wealth creation. “Prosperity endorses capitalism with its consequent tendency of commodifying humankind and exploitation of the creation,” they said.

They also criticised the “individualistic concept of soteriology” which “makes humankind to care less about the relationship among humans and that between humans and the rest of the creation” and dominion theology which is “based on the misinterpretation of Genesis 1 and 2”.

Instead, they put forward five theological bases for caring for creation: stewardship theology, based on the first commandment in Genesis 2: 15; liberation theology, based on God standing with the poor and the oppressed; reconciliation theology, the theology of glory, and theology of life.

“All these concepts need to find their expression through the churches’ prophetic proclamation, advocacy, catechetical training, liturgy, and others,” they said. “Therefore, the church is called not just to form ecclesiastical solidarity but an ecological solidarity.”

The Eco-School was the first to be organised by the WCC. It was held to “motivate and prepare young people to contribute to the work of the churches at the regional and local level on issues related to water, food, nutrition and climate change towards a sustainable future,” the WCC said.