Christians’ role in environmental protection crucial

<strong>Christians’ role in environmental protection crucial</strong>

• Negative practices are destroying the environment

The environment is key to the sur­vival and wellbeing of people as it provides wide-range benefits, such as air, food and water as well as many resources or materials needed for use in homes, work places and for development.

These notwithstanding, negative practices such as pollution, poor farm­ing practices, burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, have resulted in climate change, soil erosion, poor qual­ity of air and water and environmental degradation.

The harmful impact of the destruc­tion of the environment is not restrict­ed to various communities. It affects the entire country, human behaviour, and prompts mass migration and con­flict over clean water and food.

Africa, including Ghana, incidentally is the poorest continent, but paradox­ically the most endowed with natural resources. This is partly because of the improper management of resources and environment.

What an irony? According to the United Nation Environment Programme (UNEP), Africa has 40 percent of the world’s gold and up to 90 percent of its chromium and platinum.

The continent is endowed with the largest reserves of cobalt, diamond, platinum and uranium in the world. Africa has 65 per cent of the world’s arable land and ten percent of renewa­ble fresh water source.

The ecology of Africa can be fac­tored into the development of the con­tinent. Enviably, for instance, Ghana is located at the center of the world and the Equator and Greenwich meridian pass through the country.

The Gulf of Guinea lies at the coast­line of Ghana. These are great assets that must consciously be included in the development agenda of the nation, including environmental protection measures.

The wildlife, vegetation and land­scape of Ghana, particularly offer resources for the promotion of devel­opment. All that is needed is judicious use and protection of the environment.

Africa for that matter Ghana has become the “clean” plate, as Europe and the Americas have hit the bottom of the rock. Almost every development, advancement and inventions have been pursued already.

Africa as “clean plate” must learn from advanced nation’s mistakes and create simple livelihood and alterna­tive development modules, to protect the environment.

Certainly, God has blessed Africa with enormous resources to enable the people acquire basic needs, including water, food and shelter. This means that humans were created to be wealth and prosperous.

Africa is most blessed in terms of natural resources and human capi­tal and some scholars argue that the continent is the mother of all other continents.

Ghana for example is endowed with numerous natural resources like gold, diamond, bauxite and even oil to men­tion a few.

But, systems operated by human beings have always neglected God in the running and management of the environment and resources.

The search for effective solutions to environmental challenges will con­tinue. Individuals, opinion leaders, non-governmental organisations (NGO), governments and international bodies, have not relented efforts at conserving nature.

Though religious bodies have not been left out of the effort to protect the environment, the time has come for Churches or Christians to intensify their determination to obey God’s com­mandment about nature.

Already, many Christians, agree that God commands human beings to care for nature, which explains why some churches participate in tree planting, clean ups, education of the congrega­tion and public on the need for envi­ronmental conservation for sustainable development.

Indeed, Christians accept environ­mental protection as a religious obliga­tion. God has clearly ordered humanity to be responsible for the environment, when in Genesis 2:15, he says “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Christians believe that all created things belong to God and that they are accountable to Him as stew­ards of creation.

Additionally, God has commissioned Christians to rule over creation in a way that would sustain, protect and enhance His works so that all creation may fulfill the purposes God intended for it. Humanity is expected to manage the environment not simply for our benefit, but for God′s glory.

If we fail to care for the environ­ment as God′s people, we will reap the consequences. Protecting the environment is equally important as propagating the gospel, because God is concerned with both the physical and spiritual world.

Christians are reminded that in Genesis 1: 26-28, God sensitises us to the importance of the environment, when he says: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he creat­ed him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Concern for the environment may open opportunities for Christians to share with people of other religions that their service to creation overflows from love for God, the creator.

God’s love for the environment is so profound that in Deuteronomy 20:19, he cautioned warring factions that “When you besiege a city for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an axe against them. You may eat from them, but you shall not cut them down. Are the trees in the field human, that they should be besieged by you?”

According to John Mbiti, in his book, ‘’The Three Religions of Africa’’, God put man in charge of His creation. Is­lam and Traditional African Religion af­firm this and Christian religion amplifies the assertion. The question, therefore, is, has Christianity failed in assisting in the management of resources and protection of the environment?

God has endowed every nation with plants and herbs for curing diseas­es, including HIV AIDS, hypertension, diabetes, strokes and cancers. Leaves, barks of trees and roots can be used for the preparation of herbal medicines in the country. Trees also provide food, oxygen, help save energy, clean the air and help combat climate change.

Ghana is not exempted from this blessing. By destroying the environ­ment, we are destroying sources of herbal medicine.

It is interesting to note that that forest is a psychological therapy to ill-health. The world’s foremost expert in forest medicine and immunology, Dr Qing Li, considering the role nature plays in health, said that: “There is no medicine you can take that has such a direct influence on your health as a walk in a beautiful forest.”

This strengthens our resolve to conserve nature, especially forests and water bodies, if we are to remain healthy and strong.

To conserve our environment requires proper and prudent use of resources, to satisfy present and future needs. Though our development is dependent on the environment, we should check logging or cutting down of trees, quarrying, sand winning, Illegal mining, popularly known as galamsey, open defecation (especially in water bodies) and release of toxic gases.

American President Franklin Roo­sevelt, wary of the negative effect of environmental degradation, warned that “a nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”

Aside spiritual development, there is the urgent need for Christians to take part in initiatives that seek to tackle ecological, biodiversity, envi­ronmental and climatic change issues as a religious duty.

Undoubtedly, Christians are already playing significant roles in national development. But this would be much felt, if apart from propagating the gospel, they take part in environmen­tal conservation and proclaim to the entire world.

[The writer is in-charge of Teshie Ajorman Presbyterian Church of Ghana]

By Rev. Dr. Elias Kwaku Asiamah

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