Cardinal Turkson addresses Laudato Si’ Conference in Lusaka, Zambia

The President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace emphasizes "an ethic of care rather than a mentality of disrespect" in addressing concerns over mining practices

The key to making mining an ethical industry, is to “intervene with an ethic of care rather than a mentality of disrespect, or even violence”, said Cardinal Peter Turkson, Monday, in his keynote speech at the Laudato Si’ Conference in Lusaka, Zambia. Cardinal Turkson, who is the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, went on to add that “these interventions cannot be based on short-term profit maximization”. Quoting Pope Francis in Laudato Si’ he said “only when ‘the economic and social costs of using up shared environmental resources are recognized with transparency and fully borne by those who incur them, not by other peoples or future generations’, can those actions be considered ethical” (LS.195). Zambia is Africa’s largest producer of copper and cobalt, but communities in the copper mining regions have suffered poisoning of their water sources and destruction of farmlands.

The two-day conference, on the theme ‘Care for Our Common Home in the Context of Large Scale Investments – Mining and Agriculture’ is organized by the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR), and the Zambian Episcopal Conference, through Caritas Zambia.

It is the first conference that Cardinal Turkson has addressed on the African continent since the release of the encyclical in the summer of 2015. However, he accompanied Pope Francis last November on the Holy Father’s apostolic visit to Kenya, Uganda and the Central Africa Republic. In Kenya, Pope Francis spoke at the United Nation Office in Nairobi (UNON), which hosts the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Assembly.

A banner for the Laudato Si’ Conference held April 25-26 in Lusaka, Zambia. (Photo: Caritas Zambia)

Just a few days after more than 170 countries signed the Paris agreement on climate change, Cardinal Turkson did not shy away from addressing the mining of fossil fuels, specifically coal, but also stressed the need for justice in the transition to renewables: “Coal is the dirtiest of all fossil fuels, and it needs to be phased out. Laudato Si’ is clear about this: ‘We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay’ (LS.165). Yet the transition path to renewable energy needs to be a path based on justice—the miners, especially those who have no hope of finding alternative employment, must be cared for.”

On agriculture, Cardinal Turkson said that “sustainable agriculture represents the deepest level of integral ecology.” He highlighted Goals 12 and 15 of the Sustainable Development Goals, which call for sustainable consumption and production patterns, and the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems. Noting the enormous challenge of hunger and malnutrition in the world, especially among the poor, Cardinal Turkson warned that failure to make investments in sustainable agriculture would constitute an abdication of our sacred duty to the poor and to future generations. “As Pope Francis put it, ‘Let us not only keep the poor of the future in mind, but also today’s poor, whose life on this earth is brief and who cannot keep on waiting’” (LS.162).

Concluding his remarks on sustainable agriculture he said that “for Pope Francis, the solution includes respecting, and investing in, small-scale agriculture—in systems that can end hunger, support dignity, and protect the environment.”

The conference, according to Mr. Sam Mulafulafu, Caritas Zambia Executive Director, aims to bring the papal message home (to Zambia), and invites all in Zambia to make their share of commitments to this global solidarity on protecting the environment. Participants hope to share key content issues expressed by the Holy Father in Laudato Si’, and to make practical recommendations necessary for effective response to the issues raised in the document.

In closing his address, Cardinal Turkson reminded participants of their responsibility to current and future generations: “Now we received the world as a garden-home; let us not bequeath a wilderness to our children and generations to come!”

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About Allen Ottaro 32 Articles
Allen Ottaro lives in Nairobi, Kenya, where he is a parishioner at St. Paul’s Catholic University Chapel in the Archdiocese of Nairobi. He is a co-founder of the Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa, and is the former national coordinator of MAGIS Kenya.