(Cover photo: A group photo with the Catholic Youth Leaders of Masaka Catholic Diocese in Uganda during the CYNESA introduction workshop)
The Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa (CYNESA) worked with the Diocesan Youth Chaplaincy for Makasa Catholic Diocese in Central Uganda to bring together over 75 youth leaders from the Diocese for an introductory workshop to CYNESA and the encyclical of the Holy Father on the Care of Our Common Home, Laudato Si.
The young Catholic leaders drawn from the 54 parishes of Masaka Catholic Diocese congregated at the Nndungu Wing of the Diocesan Headquarters in Masaka for a full day CYNESA workshop. During the workshop, the young people learnt about CYNESA, its mission, and structure after the welcoming remarks from the Diocesan Youth Chaplain for Masaka, Fr. Deusdedit Ssekabira. Fr. Ssekabira affirmed that the workshop had the blessing of the Bishop of Masaka Catholic Diocese, His Lordship John Baptist Kaggwa and the Vicar General, Msgr. Serverus Jjumba.
CYNESA’s Programs Manager, David Ngigi Munene, explained that CYNESA focuses on youth-led initiatives and responses that include everyone to offer an effective, coordinated, culturally sensitive, evangelical, and spiritually-grounded response to the twin challenges of environmental degradation and climate change. He also urged them to be aware of their contribution to environmental degradation and climate change through either action or inaction as young, African Catholics. With reference to Catholic Social Teaching, David urged the young leaders to be conscious of how their actions affect the poor and vulnerable. He gave a practical example about how drinking bottled water continues to deprive the poor of their right to access safe and clean water through commodification and commercialization. In the same session, the young people also learnt that the operations of CYNESA are mainly through Core Teams, which play a coordinating role for the entire network. In addition, it was explained that core team members work from multiple locations, to grow and develop the profile of the network (CYNESA) and identify resources to make this possible.
The CYNESA Founding Executive Director, Allen Ottaro, introduced Laudato Si, its relevance to the planet and the work of CYNESA. While discussing Laudato Si and defining an encyclical, Allen referred to the Canticle of St. Francis, as cited in Laudato Si Para 12. Without spoiling the forthcoming readership experience for the young leaders, Allen gave a summary of the contents of Laudato Si based on its chapter headings. He also disclosed some of the major environmental occurrences that followed the release of Laudato Si on May 25, 2015 including the Paris CoP 21 Agreement and a growing mobilization of the ecological response by the Church. To underscore the indispensable role of young people in caring for creation and introduction of unique perspectives, Allen referred to Agenda 21 (25.2), which underlines the active participation of “youth from all parts of the world [in] all relevant levels of decision-making processes because it affects their lives today and has implications for their futures…” The young people were also introduced to Agenda 2030, Agenda 2063 for Africa, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the importance of young Catholics to the 15th Ordinary Synod of Bishops. Allen concluded by urging the YOUth to start where they are, to use what they have, and do what they can.
Four groups were formed to help the young people to identify the environmental issues in their communities, their impacts, and solutions. Their presentations were quite intriguing and blended both English and Luganda.
The most commonly mentioned challenges included reclamation and destruction of wetlands, destructive farming methods, overgrazing, poor waste management and disposal, and deforestation. All groups mentioned unpredictable seasons, negative health impacts, soil degradation, water and sanitation challenges, and poor drainage as the main outcomes of the environmental issues in their communities. Sensitization, behavior change, and awareness creation through community engagement and formation were proposed as the main solutions alongside personal initiative and inclusive approaches towards solving the challenges. During the Q&A, the main question was how the young people could take CYNESA forward. David responded by requesting the young people to begin with reading Laudato Si, which is available online and living the practical lessons therein.
CYNESA will continue to engage with the Masaka Diocesan Youth Chaplaincy and the young leaders with the hope of setting up a new chapter in Uganda soon.
David Ngigi Munene
Programs Manager, CYNESA.