Young people take leadership to care for our common home

By Charlie Chilufya SJ

LMA Youth plant trees

Lead Magis Africa (LMA) Youth Network members plant trees in Nairobi.
(Photo: Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar – JCAM)

One in three Africans, 422 million people, live below the global poverty line. They represent more than 70 percent of the world’s poorest people. While we all play a role in addressing climate change, those living on the margins of society should not be made to shoulder equal responsibility as people in wealthy countries. Yet, many young people in Africa have taken it on as a personal responsibility and challenge.

It is inevitable for the young generation in Africa to own its voice and lead our continent to where it deserves to be. Young Africans form more than 70 percent of the population and are constantly learning how they can make a difference. They hunger to do what is right and meaningful and are already making their mark.

Lead Magis Africa (LMA) Youth Network is comprised of such young people. This network, hosted by the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) Justice and Ecology Office, is driven by a strong desire for a more just world and a prosperous Africa. LMA members participated in a leadership development and global citizenship program in Kigali, Rwanda last October 12-14, 2019. The program is rooted in Ignatian Spirituality and was organized by the Justice and Ecology Office, with the support of Canadian Jesuits International and the Jesuit Mission UK. LMA youth are initiating and leading change on social and global issues. One popular cause they are taking up is the “Care for our common home” which they believe is crucial for the survival of our planet.

Upon graduating from the course, these young leaders embarked on a trail of tree planting and cleaning exercises. “According to scientists, planting billions of trees across the world is one of the biggest and cheapest ways of taking CO2 out of the atmosphere,” said Joan Gwapasuka, the Zambian Chapter leader. She led her group in two tree planting exercises last December. “I personally feel great after the tree planting event in Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology; a contribution to the lungs of our planet,” remarked Joshua Kiilu, a member from Kenya.

LMA has embarked on planting a million trees across Africa in 2020. LMA believes this is in line with the Jesuit driven Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs), especially “Caring for our common home,” and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The network has also been supporting the great work of many advocacy groups pushing Northern governments to adhere to the COP 23 resolutions.

Young people are aware that we also need to make behavioural changes now. The impact of our actions on climate will be greater and the risks higher the longer we delay. LMA believes that individuals can make a big contribution to the protection of the planet. Led by geography student Joshua Kiilu, the network has committed to adopt nine ways to care for our common home: eat less or no meat; use energy-efficient light bulbs; use reusable bags and print as little as necessary; recycle; use reusable beverage containers; don’t throw your notes away; turn off lights when not in use; save water in every way; and use public transport or walk as much as possible.

LMA is aware that by making individual lifestyle changes, we can help preserve our common home. “What you do makes a difference!” says Apollinaire, a LMA leader from Congo Democratic Republic. By eating less or no meat, one can cut their carbon footprint by half. Try it and you will see how much impact you have on the world’s resources, and adjust accordingly.