We need a new teaching: Love the earth

Female mosquitos are carriers of dengue fever. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • The emergence of viruses on an almost epidemic level is shocking but not surprising.

  • The poor once more are the first victims of climate change as the rich will seek safer grounds.

  • We were told that the choice was between a robust economy and a healthy environment but now we have neither.

  • Last year, there were scores of cholera cases and this year we are threatened by the peculiar sounding Chikungunya and O’nyong’Nyong viruses.

Mombasa may be the choice destination for foreign and domestic visitors, but in recent times it has gained notoriety for hosting unusual tropical diseases. Two years ago, dengue fever was rampant.

Last year, there were scores of cholera cases and this year we are threatened by the peculiar sounding Chikungunya and O’nyong’Nyong viruses.

This emergence of viruses on an almost epidemic level is shocking but not surprising. Turn any street corner and you will be confronted by mountains of stinking garbage.

County 001 gets the premier award for being the unhealthiest environment in Kenya. Yet you can’t visit Mombasa either without being touched by the calls to prayer, the keshas and the thumping evangelical churches calling the coastal city to worship.

Mombasa may be filthy but it is a city of prayer. This is the paradox that people of faith don’t care about their environment. When was the last time you heard a sermon about the earth, its beauty, wonder and its story?

CREATION

We are blessed with two books of revelation, the Bible and Creation but we ignore the one our ancestors knew long before the coming of Jesus or Mohamed. Our theology is anthropocentric, that is, focusing on relations between us humans and our Creator, while we destroy and desecrate God’s creation and never confess it as a sin.

Jesus gave us the commandments to love God and our neighbour. He might have added a third, to love the Earth, the stars and the planets, the birds and wildlife, insects and the biodiversity of our planet. But we humans have treated the earth as an object to be exploited and raped for our own pleasure. We have cut down forests and polluted our rivers and wonder why we have climate change and new diseases.

Every day, dozens of species of plants, insects, birds and mammals become extinct, never to return to Mother Earth. With each passing, we lose something of the divine energy among us.

Planet Earth has become a wasteland and a huge garbage dump, as Pope Francis calls it. Climate change is a reality and doomsday is not far away if the world’s politicians do not implement the Paris Accord and reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and an economic system based on limitless extracting and maximum profits.

CLIMATE CHANGE

The poor once more are the first victims of climate change as the rich will seek safer grounds. The cry of the Earth for respect and love is the same cry of the poor. Put another way, the fragile earth and the fragile of the earth are one indivisible unity.

We were told that the choice was between a robust economy and a healthy environment but now we have neither. But there is another way based on decent values that brings a win-win solution and improves lives while safeguarding the environment and its people.

The conflict between the Sengwer, Kenya Forest Service and county governments can give a win-win outcome, too, if addressed correctly.

However, if we are to save the planet and not just be concerned with personal salvation, then it will require religious leaders to start teaching that God is our Father and that the Earth is our Mother.  

 Fr Dolan is a Catholic priest based in Mombasa. [email protected] @GabrielDolan1

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