Photo Credit: A Rocha Website
[ACNS, by Rachel Farmer] Tributes have been paid to leaders of A Rocha – an international organisation promoting global care of creation - who were involved in a fatal car accident in South Africa last week.
Three of the organisation’s main leaders were killed when their car flipped over a bridge into a river near Port Elizabeth. Co-founder Miranda Harris (66), the CEO Chris Naylor (58) and his wife Susanna (54) died in the accident. Miranda’s husband and co-founder of A Rocha, Peter Harris (67), survived the crash and is in a stable condition in hospital, along with the driver of the vehicle.
The accident happened while the colleagues were visiting South Africa to explore further developments with A Rocha.
Peter and Miranda Harris founded A Rocha over 35 years ago and have been credited with spreading the creation care movement among Christians around the globe. Chris Naylor joined in 1997, overseeing their conservation work in Lebanon, and has been executive director since 2010.
A statement from the Anglican Alliance, which brings together development, relief and advocacy work across the Anglican Communion, said: “With many others around the world, the Anglican Alliance grieves for the tragic loss of Chris and Susanna Naylor and Miranda Harris. Miranda and her husband Peter, who remains in hospital, were co-founders of A Rocha, the profoundly influential creation care organisation that has helped so many people connect their love of God and love of the natural world. Chris was the CEO of A Rocha International and his wife Susanna a leading light too … We offer our heartfelt condolences to the Harris and Naylor families and the wider A Rocha community.”
Lovers of nature and God, Peter and Miranda Harris established A Rocha in 1983, beginning with a bird observatory in Portugal, which they named “the rock” in Portuguese. From this the organisation grew over 30 years establishing field centres in Portugal and Spain and working across more than 20 countries. The couple maintained a “focus on science and research, practical conservation and environmental education” and rooted in “biblical faith in the living God, who made the world, loves it and entrusts it to the care of human society.”
Since 2010, Peter and Miranda had been based in the UK.
Chris Naylor established A Rocha’s work in Lebanon, after years serving in the Middle East alongside his wife Susanna. In 2015, he wrote ‘Postcards from the Middle East: How Our Family Fell in Love with the Arab World.’
Joel Kelling, the Anglican Alliance’s regional facilitator for the Middle East said: “the work the Naylors did in establishing A Rocha Lebanon, working to restore the Ammiq Marshes, and emphasise creation care in the life of the Arabic Church is remarkable, and their legacy lives on in the work they inspired. For me, Chris’ work is an inspiration to do all I can to encourage greater participation in the renewal of God’s creation”.
The vicar of St Paul’s Church, Amman in Jordan, George al-Kopti and his wife Mary worked alongside the Naylors throughout their time in Lebanon. Mary said: “The more I think about them the more I see the size of loss. They left behind a great legacy in Lebanon. Their name will always be associated with A Rocha Lebanon… Chris and Susanna believed in the Church’s role in caring for creation. They saved no effort to support my role communicating with churches and spreading the message of God’s love for His creation.”