United Methodist churches in Zimbabwe have embarked on an eco-congregational awareness campaign. An ecumenical program, the initiative is designed to help churches link environmental issues and Christian faith and respond through practical action in their church, their personal lives and the local and global community.
During a workshop organized by the conference’s Ministry with Women, Children and Youth, coordinator Tendai Gurupira said the aim of the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area project is “to nurture our people into responsible congregants who can take care of the environment around them.” The training initiative was funded by United Methodist Women.
Gurupira said it was time for the church to expand its traditional roles such as worshipping to activities of nation-building.
“Our core business,” she said, “is to build the souls of congregants, but we need (also) to migrate to new dimensions as modern churches.”
Caroline Mutsago, advocacy and grassroots organizer, said human beings have become a serious threat to the environment they inhabit.
“The human aspect,” she noted, “has now become a cause for concern when it comes to issues of environment degradation and pollution; hence, the need to correct our behavior toward environmental issues.”
She said the workshop should be the starting point for people in faith ministries as different areas adopt similar initiatives toward maintaining the environment.
After the workshop, The United Methodist Church partnered with the Mutare City Council and Environmental Management Agency in a citywide cleanup campaign. One goal is to reduce the spread of contagious diseases such as dysentery, cholera and diarrhea.
The Environmental Management Agency is responsible for ensuring sustainable management of natural resources and protection of the environment, preventing pollution and environmental degradation, and preparing plans to accomplish these tasks.
The Rev. Daniel Chitsiku, a district superintendent, said the eco-congregation initiative “will see churches taking new responsibilities as opposed to the traditional roles of being servants of the pulpit.”
Encouraging future workshops, he added, “We want our people to participate in the eco-congregation as this can help maintain our environment.”
Eunice Muyambuki, Mutare City Council senior environmental health officer, said the eco-congregation initiative was a response to local authorities who had become overwhelmed with collection of garbage due to unavailability of resources.
“As Mutare Council,” she said, “we are delighted with the corporation as our staff had failed to cope with the demand for the required labor to collect garbage.”
Because of inefficient waste collection by authorities and non-existent services in “unreached” areas, particularly low-income communities, much of Zimbabwe’s 0.5 million tons of solid waste per year pollute the environment. According to reports, waste-collection rates in Zimbabwe have consistently slumped, sometimes by more than 70 percent, leading to an over 80-percent increase in volume of potentially hazardous wastes deposited at illegal dumpsites.
Takudzwa Chisi, Environmental Management Agency officer for the Mutare District, emphasized that the cleanup campaigns should not be events, but, rather, a culture to cultivate in the minds of the people.
“I urge you all,” he said, to “continue engaging more congregants around the country … as we continue to work toward cleaning the environment that we inhabit. Cleaning should be a routine if we are to maintain our environment.”
Chingwe is communications coordinator for the Zimbabwe East Conference.