Read the Statement below as captured by Barotseland Watchdog.
There comes a time when it is correct to say enough is enough and let us start a new way of life or else we shall perish and the future generation will forever be deprived of the their livelihood. This is the case with us in Mongu Diocese and other parts of the province.
Banabahesu, this year, on the Feast of Pentecost which fell on the 24th May, the Holy Father, Pope Francis issued an encyclical letter Laudato Si with a subtitle: Care for our Common Home. The Holy Father calls us to reflect on ‘what is happening to our common home’; which is a call to reflect on the story of a creation that is crying. In chapter two the Pope calls for understanding of the gospel of creation. Creations come with responsibility on humanity. Our ‘Human roots of the ecological crisis’ is treated in the third chapter inviting us to a dialogue between philosophy and human sciences. All of us are invited to reflect on the relationship that runs through environmental, economic and social ecology as expressed in chapter four. Every reflection calls on us to action and chapter five of the encyclical invites us to this action of dialogue at every level of our human existence. For us to benefit from what God has provided for us through creation, chapter six challenges us to Ecological education and spirituality leading us to ecological conversion.
Banabahesu, what has this encyclical got to do with us in this corner of the world? The Holy Father is speaking to us. He has challenged our attitude towards our environment. For us in Mongu Diocese, the encyclical speaks to us through what we see around us in terms of degradation of our forest. The story has been told and put across that poverty is the cause for the indiscriminate cutting of trees. In paragraph 198 the Holy Father says:
Politics and the economy tend to blame each other when it comes to poverty and environmental degradation. It is to be hoped that they can acknowledge their own mistakes and find forms of interaction directed to the common good. While some are concerned only with financial gain, and others with holding on to or increasing their power, what we are left with are conflicts or spurious agreements where the last thing either party is concerned about is caring for the environment and protecting those who are most vulnerable.
A call has been made of taking care of our environment at various levels of our human existence.
Banabahesu, let us look at the issue of deforestation and the indiscriminate cutting of trees in our diocese and the province as a whole. In the last few months I have had travels to places like Mangango, Senanga and Kaoma, and the areas around Sitaka leading to Lukulu. I have seen the careless cutting of our trees for timber, charcoal and poles. In the areas of Nkenga and Milumbwa of Mangango one can see how young Milombe, Mizauli and Mituya trees are being cut for timber. In the areas of Ngundi in Senanga the story is the same. We see this also in the areas from Mangango to Sitaka and going through the black forest. The story continues in the forests of Lukulu. All this is for timber. In the areas of Mongu to Kaoma, we see stack and stacks of charcoal and the distraction of Mubula tree for housing purposes. In the forests of Luampa we still see the rampart cutting of trees for timber. I can go on and on and indicate to you some areas that have been affected, yet the issue at hand is that our forest has been attacked and is being depleted by our local people and those from outside Barotseland.
Banabahesu, as we reflection on the encyclical of Pope Francis, we have to ask: Who gives the people who are destroying our forests licenses to undertake such activities? Is the relevant government department involved in this and is it doing the necessary monitoring? Is the permission given by the numerous indunas, village headmen/women, and the chiefs in these areas? In a word, what is the role of our traditional leaderships in this activity? Who are the real beneficiaries of this natural degradation activity? Should we continue watching this happening without raising our concerns and calling for a change of attitude towards our environment? How are the councils involved in this business that seem to leave our land naked? Who really is benefiting from this activity? Is there anyone who is involved in replanting the trees that are being cut? Who is at the beginning of this chain of destruction? Who is holding the middle of this chain? And who is at the end of it?
The Holy Father has addressed many issues affecting our world today. In this reflection I just wanted to highlight what we are going through as a people in this part of the country. In our situation, the call is made to our various traditional leaderships to respond to the call of preservation of our forest. The call is also raised for our government through relevant departments which includes the local government to make the preservation of our forests a priority. The community at large is called upon not only to look at what they can gain from our forests today, but to also look to the future.
My appeal is that the traditional leadership, the government and the community should work together to address the damage being done to our forest before it is too late. Taking care of our forest now, will mean saving our lives and that of the generations to come.
Evans Chinyama Chinyemba, O.M.I.
Bishop of Mongu