2017 has been a phenomenal year for the CYNESA family, capped by a successful 4-day summit in Nairobi, in the final week of November. It was such an honour to welcome to our second summit, colleagues from 6 of our 8 chapters – Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Kenya and South Africa. Our teams from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo were unable to join us due to financial constraints, while Zambia and South Africa were participating for the first time.
I had the opportunity earlier this year, to visit our chapters in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa. The conversations I had with the young people I met on my travels, repeatedly reaffirmed what Pope Francis emphasizes in paragraph 13 of Laudato Si’, that “Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.”
While the main theme of the CYNESA Summit 2017 was “Laudato Si: Youth and Wildlife Conservation in Africa”, delegates found time in the program to share experiences of creation care from their countries, debate their role in shaping environmental discourse in Africa, and to plan the direction of the network.
The summit set even more ambitious targets for our work. For example, in our quest to be a truly Africa-wide network, delegates resolved that by 2020, CYNESA should have presence in at least 20 countries. The encyclical Laudato Si’ will continue to be at the centre of our mission, guiding our programs and strengthening our chapters. The secretariat has its work cut out, but these are certainly exciting times to be part of the CYNESA family!
I was greatly inspired by the enthusiasm and spirit of my CYNESA colleagues, by their desire to work towards a better Africa and world, in which all can enjoy a safe and healthy environment. The new friendships that were made and old ones that were rekindled, spoke to a strong sense of solidarity that cuts across national borders. Many moments during the summit reminded me of the words of South African environmental and human rights activist, Dr. Kumi Naidoo. “I encourage the youth of the world to embrace and nurture a sense of creative maladjustment; to not let the way things are now be the future.”
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”, says an African proverb. In a spirit of deep gratitude to God, to my colleagues and to our partners, I look forward to the New Year 2018, to move our mission faster, further and together.
Founder & Executive Director, CYNESA.