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PRESS RELEASE: 20 long-term eco plans to be created by Christians and Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa

April 2, 2011:

Representatives of faith groups at ARC's meeting at the All Africa Conference of Churches

In Kano province in Nigeria, children starting their studies at the 1,250 Muslim schools run by the mainstream Qadiriyyah Sufi Movement are given two tree seedlings. One is to plant in the school orchard and the other is to take home. At the end of their school year, they are assessed on how well they have looked after their trees – and this contributes 50% of the marks they need to graduate.

“So it is very serious,” explained Yassin Garba Maisikeli, representative of Sheik Qaribullah Kabara, leader of the Qadiriyyah Sufi Movement in Nigeria." The idea is to tie environmental responsibility into the child. We have 120,000 students in Qadiriyyah-run schools so we believe this will make a big impact upon society.”

The Muslim action in Kano addresses one of the big problems facing many environmental projects around the world, which is that almost everyone likes to plant, but few people remember to nurture.

It is that ability by religions to take a long-term view, that is at the heart of pledges made this week by 20 significant Christian and Muslim faith traditions from throughout sub-Saharan Africa, representing many millions of followers. They each pledged to create a long term plans to protect and nurture creation.

“One of the things I found most moving – in a meeting packed with ideas, commitments, passion and faith – was how the secular representatives spoke with such ease about the role of faith organisations as partners in this work and also of the centrality of seeing nature as God’s gift" - Martin Palmer, ARC
At a two-day workshop organised by ARC in Nairobi, Kenya, this week, representatives of the 20 faith groups said they had a "God-given duty" to protect creation, and committed their resources, energy and faith to developing new action plans on the environment. 



This is the latest in ARC/UNDP's commitment to helping faiths create environment plans, which was launched by Prince Philip and Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon at Windsor in 2009, a few weeks before the Copenhagen COP. 



As well as planting millions of trees (8.5 million on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, 10 million in Rwanda, for example), the faiths will be managing their land sustainably, protecting water sources, reducing energy use and working to enhance biodiversity.

They will also be embarking upon a major effort to train young people in environmental care and protection through their schools and youth groups. 



With 90 per cent of Africa’s population declaring themselves to be either Christian or Muslim, ARC Director Martin Palmer said this was an historic moment: “The way to the heart of Africa is through faith and faith will be the engine that changes the way Africa’s environment is managed by its own people. This is a truly historic moment where faith, conservation and civil society meet and begin to change the world for the better.” 



Rev Dr Andre Karamaga, General Secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches which co-hosted the workshop, told the delegates: “I ask you to take this as God’s mandate.

“God has created this world and put us there to be stewards of this world, and in carrying out this assignment we are carrying out God’s mandate. Our hope is clearly intertwined with the land, the Bible clearly says this.” 



Craig Sorley of the Christian mission organisation, Care of Creation Kenya, said faith leaders had to “plant a God-centred vision for restoring degraded landscapes in which caring for Creation is seen as a means of loving God”. 



The message was whole-heartedly endorsed by the faith leaders from Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe, who said the two-day workshop had been hugely inspiring. 



ARC director Martin Palmer said the role of the faiths in environmental action was now being taken seriously by secular organisations and governments. 

 He added: “One of the things I found most moving – in a meeting packed with ideas, commitments, passion and faith – was how the secular representatives spoke with such ease about the role of faith organisations as partners in this work and also of the centrality of seeing nature as God’s gift. 



“Too often the environmental movement has acted as though the faiths are either irrelevant or an obstacle. Thank God we seem to be getting beyond that and this meeting is a harbinger of what ARC was set up to create, which is partnerships at every level.” 



Reuben Sinauge of Kenya-based National Environment Trust Fund, one of several secular environmental groups attending, said: “The two days I have been here really have inspired me. It has changed my mind about the environment and now I think it has a chance to survive. Because you are developing a vision of how to do it, and I see that it is from your conviction, because you are quoting from your scriptures and holy books as to why you should support environmental management to save the planet.” 



The meeting, which ran from March 29-30, looked at issues of sustainable land and water management, including forestry, food, farming and education, which will all be crucial elements of the faiths’ long-term plans.

ENDS

Notes to editor:

The Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) is a UK-based charity that works with all the major religions of the world to help them develop environmental plans based on their own beliefs, practices and teachings. www.arcworld.org

The All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) is an ecumenical body representing more than 120 million Christians in 39 African countries.

Delegates included Christian and Muslim faith leaders from Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. They were joined by two key Hindu observers; Hindus are present in 26 African countries.

Also present were representatives of key secular agencies, including USAID, ICRAF (the World Agroforestry Centre), TerrAfrica, UNEP's Billion Trees Campaign, the World Bank and the International Small Group and Tree Planting Programme.

In total, 20 Muslim and Christian faith groups have committed to creating plans, with funding provided by the World Bank, the Norwegian Government. USAID also helped to fund the workshop

The Christian and Muslim faith leaders have been inspired to develop their long-term plans by the initiative of 31 faith groups that announced long-term action plans on the environment at ARC’s Windsor Celebration in November 2009.

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