WWF targets WYD to help save Amazon

  • July 26, 2013

Catholicism met conservation in Brazil at the Sacred Earth panel during World Youth Day. On July 24, this World Wildlife Fund program was presented at World Youth Day, exploring the connection between faith and the environment.

Dekila Chungyalpa, director of the WWF’s Sacred Earth program, WWF-Brazil CEO Cica Brito and Amazon conservation expert Claudio Maretti were on the panel at WYD in Rio de Janeiro to address faith-based partnerships for the care of wildlife and wild places on Earth.

“Almost 50 per cent of the planet’s human population is under the age of 25. It’s really important that the youth leaders step up and feel that they are empowered and that they are invited to actually be problem solvers on issues such as the environment,” Chungyalpa said. “The future is actually theirs.”

The Sacred Earth program serves as “technical support for religious leaders that want to make a difference on conservation or environment issues,” said Chungyalpa. The program also provides practical steps that houses of worship can do to promote environmentally friendly practices, such as how to conserve energy and becoming more water efficient.

Sacred Earth already has relationships with the Church in East Africa and in Rio de Janeiro. Chungyalpa has yet to come across a religious leader not interested in caring for the environment.

“One of the biggest messages we hope comes out of World Youth Day is the idea of harmony between nature and people,” Chungyalpa said.

Citing religious organizations as mobilizers of people and inspired by the week-long WYD celebration with faith-based youth leaders, Chungyalpa hopes Pope Francis will encourage these leaders and youth — those attending and from around the world — to care for the Amazon.

“Pope Francis’ respect for nature and his strong call for sustainable development have been early hallmarks of his pontificate. As his namesake St. Francis of Assisi suggests, he has already given us great hope that he will be an invaluable global messenger for environmental protection around the world,” said Chungyalpa in a press release.

“We see him as a messenger of peace. One of the biggest messages we hope comes out of World Youth Day is the idea of harmony between nature and people,” she told The Catholic Register. “So we’re really excited he’s coming to Rio.”

The panel’s agenda included discussions on how the Church can use its “inspirational voice” to help protect the Amazon. The Amazon is the world’s largest rain forest, home to more than 300 indigenous groups and one tenth of the world species. It plays a large role in protecting the planet from climate change, said Chungyalpa.

“If we think about it in terms of creation it’s obviously God’s gift to Earth. It’s got creation and biodiversity singing from all corners.”

Adding that the Church realizes its “responsibility in a global sense,” she said that “the Church cares very much about poverty and what happens to poor people... (and) protecting forests like the Amazon is actually protecting the poorest of the poor.”

For more information, visit www.worldwildlife.org/initiatives/sacred-earth-faiths-for-conservation.

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