Kinshasa : United Religious Confessions for the Earth, Interfaith Rainforest Initiative ( IRI-DRC ) Engages for Biodiversity in the DRC

Kinshasa, May 28, 2024 – In celebration of World Biodiversity Day, the Interreligious Initiative for Tropical Forests, Interfaith Rainforest Initiative(IRI-DRC) organized two days of activities to commemorate this special event with all stakeholders.

At the Centennial Cathedral, the activity was marked by three key moments: a solemn inaugural ceremony, an awareness session, and an inspiring commitment from spiritual and religious leaders.

In his opening speech, the first vice-president of the Church of Christ in Congo emphasized the relevance of the chosen theme for this day: “Living Forests, Emerging Peoples.” This theme, he asserted, calls us to act decisively to protect our planet and those who reside in it. He commended the efforts made by religious confessions to mobilize their followers in this urgent awareness of biodiversity protection, perceived as a divine gift to humanity.

Indeed, forests play a crucial role in providing us with vital resources such as food, clean water, and medicine. Terrestrial and marine ecosystems are essential for regulating the climate and protecting us against extreme weather events.

Following this emotionally charged speech and encouragement for a better future of biodiversity preservation, the coordinator of the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative (IRI-DRC ) spoke to present the initiative’s work. He traced the origin of the IRI, highlighting its inception in 2007 in Norway when all religious confessions became aware of the devastating effects of poverty, climate change, deforestation, and flooding on divine creation. Faced with this reality, religious confessions acknowledged their responsibility and decided to address messages to all stakeholders, including governments and businesses, urging them to adopt environmentally friendly practices.

Focusing their efforts on tropical forests, the IRI works in five countries located on the equator line, including Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Congo, and Indonesia. In the DRC, where biodiversity is immense but threatened by alarming deforestation, this initiative is of crucial importance. Raising public awareness, mainly composed of believers, becomes a primary responsibility for the IRI, aware that over 98% of the population adheres to a religious belief.

At the heart of this historic celebration, Archbishop Utembi, president of CENCO, spoke of the urgency of preserving our “common home” in the face of alarming signs of climate change. “We witness the ravages of nature through floods, erosion, and excessive heat waves,” he emphasized.

The Catholic Church, through its CENCO president, announced its intention to integrate integral ecology pastoral care into its core actions. This will be manifested through seven ambitious programs, ranging from revitalizing ecclesial communities to electrifying rural and peri-urban areas through renewable energy sources, and providing increased support to mining communities and environmental education.

Colonel Grâce Matondo, legal representative of the Church, stated that this celebration marks the beginning of a “green confession,” with unwavering commitment to biodiversity coordinated through joint ecological initiatives.

Similarly, representatives of the Islamic Community in Congo emphasized the importance of responsible consumption of natural resources, affirming that ecology is intrinsically part of religion. “We will be questioned about our use of natural resources on the Day of Judgment,” said Shé Abdallah Mangala, highlighting the sacred responsibility towards the Earth.

Indeed, these concrete commitments of religious confessions strengthen their call for biodiversity preservation. Through these actions, these spiritual leaders demonstrate a profound commitment to environmental protection and the establishment of a harmonious relationship between humanity and nature.

In a world faced with increasingly pressing environmental challenges, the unity of beliefs for the preservation of the planet offers a ray of hope. By uniting their voices and actions, religious confessions show that biodiversity protection is a cause that transcends religious boundaries and inspires real change.

This celebration of World Biodiversity Day organized by Interfaith Rainforest Initiative ( IRI-DRC ) reflects a global movement towards awareness and concerted action to preserve our planet and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.

By Franck zongwe Lukama

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