Cameroon, Climate Change and Cassava

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On June 21st – the longest day and possibly the warmest of evenings, Fr Cornelius Safe gave a talk in the parish Centre of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Redditch, about the beautiful land of his birth, Cameroon.  Fr Cornelius, who is studying for his MA at Maryvale and is helping in Mount Carmel parish, told us what a beautiful country Cameroon is, but, because of various problems the country is experiencing, life is not always easy. The country is about twice the size of the UK with a population of about twenty million, less than a third of that of the UK.  Life expectancy is about fifty-four years, and the country is 153/188 on the UN’s Human Development index.  The literacy rate is 75%, with a marked difference between male and female literacy.  The majority of the population depend on agriculture for a living.

Fr Cornelius explained that corruption is a severe problem in Cameroon, and that several Catholic bishops have been killed recently for standing against it.  He also told us that the land on which so many of his people depend is being affected by Climate Change, and particularly by de-forestation.  This means that the land is more liable to mud-slides, and therefore not enough food is being grown.  Various charities are working in the country, but the endemic corruption means that major charities are not welcome.

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Following on from Fr Cornelius’ presentation, and in particular his references to climate change, Jim Quinn of the parish CAFOD group gave a short talk on CAFOD’s latest campaign, ‘Power to Be’. This focuses on the benefits of bringing clean energy into the Developing World, enabling better educational provision in rural areas, which in turn allows children to develop the skills to help them achieve their potential and dreams of a better life. Parishioners took away with them cards calling on the UK’s representative at the World Bank to try and ensure the bank increases funding on renewable energy projects in developing countries. For more information on the campaign go to http://cafod.org.uk/Campaign/Power-to-be/Energy-campaign

The evening finished with everyone enjoying the delicious Cameroonian food which Fr Cornelius had prepared, including plantains, semolina, chicken, pork and rice.  Thank you very much for a most enjoyable and interesting evening, Father!

Climate Change Workshop at Taizé Birmingham

St Peter appears quite oafish in the Alfresco of the Last Supper that lies behind the altar of St Michael’s Roman Catholic Church in Birmingham.  Broad shouldered and stern faced he looks as if he should be ‘engaging’ in a scrum not with the disciples and Christ over bread and wine.  He seems out of place quite frankly.  Bemused and in denial as to what is going on.  It’s that look of malaise, incredulity and weariness that glazes over your eyeballs every time the word ‘Climate change is mentioned’. I felt a lot like that last Sunday as I passed through the Church’s small yet resolved wooden doors to attend the ‘Climate change workshop’ led by CAFOD and A Rocha as part of the Taizé Birmingham weekend.  What could I as a willing contributor to climate change possibly contribute back?  Tackling what seems to be a matter of the survival of our species is out of my hands, best left to those who know more and would perhaps have a significant impact upon my own ability to go to sleep at night.  I also know somebody who is writing her PHD on developing new ways to store nuclear waste so turning off a light bulb did strike me as a bit lackadaisical in my ‘new age’ outlook.  What’s more so, why should I take heed of this world when everything I’ve been told about Christianity is supranatural, transcendent, immaterial and spirit.  Reconciling a ‘Theocentric’ environmentalist message with an immaterial faith is challenging to say the least.  Render unto Ceasar that which is his, my kingdom is not of this earth, the general apocalyptic tone of ummm the apocalypse.  Well if the statistics that were projected onto the wall directly adjacent to Judas are correct the bible is lying because we do not have to wait for a ‘second coming’ of Christ at all.  We are ushering in our own one.

The man from A rocha (the rock) told us of Jeremiah 29 and our duty of care for creation.  The ‘oikos’ of planet earth, economic idolatry of post war Western industry, the world being broken, the poorest suffering first, how climate change caused grain prices to crash, which in turn fermented the Arab spring, which caused the Syrian civil war which caused the current refuguee crisis sweeping across Europe.  Whilst all thoroughly terrifying, facts speak louder than words.

The Overhead was taken from here – http://assets.wwf.org.uk/custom/lpr2016/?utm_source=search&utm_medium=display&utm_campaign=lpr2016&pc=HBG003004&pc=AQJ001002&ds_medium=cpc&gclid=CODp4pHlzNMCFY8Q0wodRzACvg&gclsrc=aw.ds

A link to the WWF’s living planet index.  I knew from launching a people’s elbow onto a friends head when I was younger that The Rock and the WWF were related to one another but this new relationship between the two was news to me!  Shame this new one isn’t pretending in its melodrama.  These statistics along with hundreds of others are just a google away and real.  The weight of them is soul crushing.  The Holy Father writes in Laudato Si that we are making a material desert of the world and in turn becoming spiritual deserts ourselves.

A Rocha is portugese for the the rock and in conjunction with CAFOD they struggle in the tremendous task of loving God’s world, his creation and everything in it.  I suggested in passing that maybe this was a bit ‘paganistic’. All this talk of trees, and plants, deserts and seas, birds and fish  reminded me of gaia, mother earth and all her earth centred faiths which sat uncomfortably with me until I considered the incarnation.  God so loved the world….  We are not Nestorian or Arian in our church.  A middle ground was forged 1300 years ago at the council of Nicaea.  We believe in the material bodily raised Christ.  If the resurrection of his earthly body did not happen then our belief was for nothing.  You do not have to ‘intertwine’ environmentalism with Christianity.  There is little fallacious or forced about it.  Christ died so that we may live, on Earth as it is in heaven. I seriously doubt he had this type of life in mind for us.

The speaker from A Rocha made an interesting point that out of Western modernity with its ego-centric impulses, think Neo-liberalism, where competition between one another not only defines us as a species but also our fate, and ecocentric agnosticism a middle ground was being forged by Christians where a legitimate ‘theocentric’ environmentalism could be reclaimed from the bible.  It moved the speaker enough to write a PHD on Pope Francis’ own environmentalist message which his Holy Father attests to in Laudato Si.  Theocentric environmentalism is spiritual Christianity as being the  beating heart of this material world.

written by a CAFOD Volunteer

Find out more about Campaigning with CAFOD : http://cafod.org.uk/Campaign/Latest-campaigns

Jim, Phil, Jane and Kris – CAFOD campaigners

Campaigning for a more just world is core to CAFOD’s work, this work relies on a whole network of individuals who take actions privately, and on volunteers who work to share our campaigning work with others.

This month we would like to particularly acknowledge the efforts of four of our volunteers. Jim, Phil, Jane and Kris.

paris5(Phil, Jane, Jim and Kris, with Brendan in the middle – photo taken in Paris December 2015)

All four were part of the CAFOD group who went to Paris in 2015 for the COP21 climate talks.

You can hear from Kris on why he went to Paris here: https://cafodbirmingham.wordpress.com/2016/01/09/why-i-went-to-paris-for-the-cop21-summit/

And see how Phil enjoyed himself in Paris here: https://cafodbirmingham.wordpress.com/2015/12/13/some-video-from-the-final-rally-in-paris/

Both before and since their trip to Paris they have been tireless in their efforts to speak out on Climate Change for CAFOD, between them visiting scores of schools, parishes and groups. By their efforts they have motivated countless others to become active on the issue of climate change.

You can read about Jim and Jane’s ecumenical event a year last February in Redditch here: https://cafodbirmingham.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/redditch-christians-concerned-about-climate-change/

All four were involved in our Speak Up lobby which took place in October, organising events in their constituency inviting their local MP to tell them why the government needs to take action on Climate change.

Without them our campaigning would be much poorer.

If you would like to campaign with CAFOD then please get in touch birmingham@cafod.org.uk

Thank you.