YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon – As the Church marks the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation on Sep. 1, Capuchin Brother Benedict Ayodi says September should be used by Christians to “reconcile with our Creator through communion with creation”

Currently serving as the Africa program manager for the Global Catholic Climate Movement, Ayodi told Crux the day of prayer “is a special time to reflect on our relationship with the Creator.”

He also spoke about the challenges facing the Congo Basin Rainforest, the commitments made during the Paris Climate Summit as well as issues related to climate finance.

Following are excerpts of that interview.

Crux: September 1, 2020 is being celebrated as World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. Why do you think such a day is important?

The World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation is the opening day in the Season of Creation, the annual celebration of prayer and action for our common home that unites Christians around the world. During this month-long celebration, we reconcile with our Creator through communion with creation. The World Day of Prayer that opens the season each year is a special time to reflect on our relationship with the Creator.

President Donald Trump has called climate change a “hoax” in the past. What is the reaction when world leaders speak like this?

Climate change is a reality that has been proven by scientists as exhibited in the regular IPCC reports. Moreover scientists predict that sub-Saharan Africa will be among the places hardest hit by climate change, and indeed many of our sisters and brothers are already dealing with unpredictable rain, the spread of malarial mosquitoes, and having to move from farm lands to the cities because farms are no longer productive. All Christians should care about this suffering. Christians in places like the U.S., which has created the most greenhouse gas emissions in history, should especially care.

Some in Africa have argued that the continent should be paid by major carbon emitters to protect their forests. Do you think this is a valid argument?

The Paris climate agreement was a huge step forward in the global race to find solutions to the climate crisis. Although there have been challenges, this remains a good way to ensure that greenhouse gas reductions are spread equitably and that the most vulnerable of our sisters are protected.

In the Paris agreement developed countries committed to providing climate finance for mitigation and adaptation action. $100 billion in climate finance per year was committed. Indeed, more care must be given to Africa and other developing countries who have contributed least to the climate crisis, yet stand to be most devastated by its impacts.

How fast is the global climate changing and how is Africa affected?

Humanity’s impact on the climate has altered the course of life on our planet. Over the course of a few centuries, we have changed our planetary systems to a degree that puts everything off balance.

We in Africa have contributed the least to these changes. Most of the oil and gas that is taken from our land is sold to multi-national corporations and used by other people, for their benefit and to our detriment.

What would be the danger of destroying the Congo Basin, a major carbon sink for the world? 

The Congo Basin is home to an incredible diversity of plants and animals and constitutes one of the richest ecosystems on Earth. In addition, the dense forests of the Congo Basin provide an essential service in absorbing the carbon that is warming our planet.

Destroying the Congo Basin would further contribute to the moral sickness that has taken hold of us, a sickness that convinces us that we have the right to destroy what God has created. The knock-on effects would be tremendous, with further rise in sea levels, the spread of deserts, the acidification of the oceans, and all the troubles that climate change brings.

How can the Congo Basin forest be saved?

The Congo Basin is rich in forests and poor in cash, which makes it hard to resist offers of easy money from loggers.  Carbon credits could, in theory, help save the forests. Moreover, it is critically important to provide jobs and a functioning economy to people who are driven by necessity to create small farms within the Congo Basin forests.

What role can Christians in Africa play in climate change mitigation?

All Christians should go back to their fundamental call of being good stewards of the environment. This demands an ecological conversion that leads Christians to be proactive in climate action and climate justice.  Motivated by the papal encyclical, Laudato Si’, Christians are challenged to listen to the cry of the poor and the cry of the Earth.