Empowering the Young Generation

African youth at the LWF climate project training, Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo: LUCSA
African youth at the LWF climate project training, Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo: LUCSA

Thirteen new climate projects for Africa

(LWI) – The effects of climate change are experienced across the globe: rising sea level rise, the number of tropical storms is increasing, fertile land is endangered by floods or drought, decreasing crop yields result in soaring food prices.

"You are brave people. Keep on beating the drum and talk about climate change – and make  people listen," Rev. Dr David Tswaedi, Executive Director of Lutheran Churches in Southern Africa, greeted the 15 youth participants of The Lutheran World Federation’s (LWF) climate project training taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 12 - 17 February.

Climate justice advocacy is a priority

For the LWF, climate change is a priority issue for advocacy and climate justice is a cross cutting priority of the LWF. Young people in the LWF have been involved in both themes after highlighting sustainability and ecological justice at the Eleventh LWF Assembly in Stuttgart 2010.

Over the last 7 years, young people were trained and mobilized through several trainings, advocacy programs and campaigns and have increased the commitment of the communion for climate justice.

In 2016, the 22nd UN Conference of Parties on Climate Change (COP22) was attended by a LWF delegation of young African leaders. During the COP22 program, eight African LWF delegates came up with recommendations to the LWF member churches to increase climate action and be role models as greener churches. These include investing in renewable energy and divesting from fossil fuels, integrating climate change curricula in religious education and establishing climate justice projects in their churches.

The LWF climate project training now invited youth leaders and climate actors from the three sub-regional expressions in Africa, namely the Lutheran Communion in Central and Eastern Africa (LUCCEA), the Lutheran Communion in Western Africa (LUCWA) and the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA) to develop climate projects for a sustainable approach within LWF member churches and LWF programs.

Words of warning from different African regions

Rev. Zanguim Hamadou, from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cameroon, shared the effects of climate change in his country.

“In Cameroon, people depend on charcoal and wood for cooking, as they do not have easy access to other energy sources,” he explained. He strives to raise awareness regarding the dangers of deforestation, build improved cooking stoves and continue with the church project of reforestation called “One Christian, One Tree.”

Mami Aro Sandaniana, an LWF council member from the Malagasy Lutheran Church, said that every year the island is hit by a tropical cyclone due to climate change. In the past this would only happen once a decade, but this has now increased in frequency and strength. Her church now has has established a program for thousands of scouts to plant a tree wherever they host their events, to promote environmental education and protection.

Khulekani Fah Magwaza, theology student from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa, introduced the “Climate Justice Projects” - his newly registered organization in South Africa that supports recycling projects, plants “Luther gardens”, raises environmental awareness and collects stories around these issues.

The training concluded with thirteen new climate project proposals in LWF programs and member churches in Africa, tackling deforestation, desertification, introducing climate insurance for farmers, raising community awareness, advocacy against illegal mining and introducing climate change courses in Bible schools.

The youth leaders agreed that communities should join and fight climate change. Even more so as the poorest people are the most affected group by escalating food prices, droughts and storms. African countries should also utilize renewable energies and fight deforestation. “God entrusted the earth to humankind to look after creation and not to exploit it,” they concluded in prayer.

By Gugu Mkhabela, LUCSA; edited by the Office for Communication Services