Venue:  CIFOR/ICRAF, Gigiri, Nairobi
Date: April 25th 2023

Plenary Session: Points from the presentation of the keynote speaker Rev. Dr. Kobia

“How can we strengthen the faith based groups?"

Rev Dr Sam Kobia gave a brief genesis of his involvement with faith and the creation/environment and related caring for the environment with faith.  When God created in the beginning, the desert was desolate. The spirit was moving over the water. God brought order in the beginning.  When looking at the Abrahamic faiths, there is logic and order. When juxtaposing land restoration with faith, we see there is order and logic.  Logic such as ‘the land needs to be nurtured and nutrified’. 

In 1976, there was the first “UN Conference on Human Settlements: Habitat 1”, to which UNEP invited WCC and there Dr. Kobia attended a side event on Faith, Science and Future. Another Kenyan was there – Dr. Wangari Maathai, then a young lecturer at a university who got her inspiration for environmental protection and justice at that world conference. They both have since made great strides around environmental justice and protection on a national and global level. 

Dr. Kobia cited the example of an abandoned limestone quarry near Mombasa which has since been turned into an ecological wilderness providing a sanctuary for abandoned and lost wildlife. In the 1970’s, Dr. Rene Haller’s experiments and efforts at the quarry turned the desolate factory land into a thriving ecological wilderness. Once bare, the area is now home to crocodiles, antelopes, plants, herbs and more vegetation. The famous Bamburi Nature Trail, has now been renamed Haller Park.  It is a showcase of conservation. From wasteland to a microcosm of a bountiful wilderness. 

A contrasting example was one of degradation in Dadaab refugee camp where the land is now desolate. A sign, Forest Road, depicts what may have once been at Dadaab, and what could be once again. 

Faiths are the stewards of the Garden.  Human greed has ended up destroying the earth. Dominion does not mean destroy. 

Way Forward for faith actors

​His advice and encouragement to the participants in plenary was to“…consider what you are doing as a calling to restore that which human beings have destroyed contrary to what God intended”. 
He said we have a burden of history because we know the reasons for climate change and we know that if we don’t do certain things, the earth and environment will degrade. 

He concluded by encouraging the group to walk together by working together. He also emphasized the value of networking, even via social media, for mutual encouragement and enrichment. This can also lead to finding solutions among ourselves. Sharing experiences is of utmost importance. OikoDiplomatique can provide such spaces. We need to create systems that help us. This is how faith actors can continue to be at the frontier.

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