A Kenyan dressed in traditional robes is seen picking up litter

Catholic environmental activists participating in the Laudato Si’ Movement in Africa matched their words with actions, mounting cleanup efforts and educational programs as part of the observance of World Environment Day.

Fredrick Nzwili

is a journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya. He writes about religion, politics, peace and conflict, development, security, environment and wildlife.

By: Fredrick Nzwili

Working a short distance from grazing African buffaloes, activists June 4 cleared debris and unwanted plants in Nairobi National Park outside of Kenya’s capital and the nearby Mbagathi River.

“We want to make sure that our parks do not have any waste such as plastics and anything else that should not be there,” Papa Prince, program manager for the Laudato Si’ Movement in Africa, told Catholic News Service while working.

The movement is a global community of Catholics tackling the climate change crisis. “This is a call for all of us who really love the parks around the city, to maintain cleanliness and safety for each one of us, and wildlife. That which should not be inside the park should be somewhere elsewhere,” he said.

World Environment Day fell days after Catholics worldwide observed Laudato Si’ Week, which marked the seventh anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment and integral human development. “In Laudato Si’ Week, as Catholics, we look at how we are disposing of our waste. We ask, are we disposing in a manner that is harmful to the nature, harmful to the animals? Are we disposing of waste the way it should be?” Prince said.

The work allowed participants to better understand that earth is the home of diverse animals and plants, and that people are called to care for the planet.

“The week is a call on all of us to clean the Mother Earth, to clean our minds, to clean our actions so that everything we have is in line with what God asks us,” Prince said.

Scientists and other experts have warned that the world is struggling with global warming, water pollution and ocean acidification, and the loss of biodiversity. Advocates for the environment said anyone can take action to care for the planet and the work they joined on World Environment Day can begin to make a difference in addressing pollution.

Isaiah Kilerai, an environmental advocate from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Nairobi, said his actions in the park reminded him and other young people of their responsibility to protect the earth. “We only have one earth as our home, which we are called to protect. There are several issues which we need to tackle, but I think plastic waste is the most troubling. For me, it is the biggest crisis in the world today,” Kilerai said.

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