Making a case for mainstreaming environmental justice concerns in the mission of the Catholic Church in Sierra Leone in light of Laudato Si’

Sowa, Robert Michael (2023) Making a case for mainstreaming environmental justice concerns in the mission of the Catholic Church in Sierra Leone in light of Laudato Si’. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Recent research indicates that there is an increasing acknowledgement of the role of religious communities in promoting environmental care and sustainability. However, on the African continent, concern for the environment has had much less traction amongst the continent’s religious traditions, despite the continent being one of the world’s most vulnerable areas to the ecological crisis.

With regards to the African Catholic Church, many have wondered aloud, since the ecological crisis poses immediate and enduring threats to the African continent, why the issue has not commanded decisive attention in the vast majority of the local churches of Africa. I would ask this question more pointedly: Why has the environmental question not gained much traction in the African Catholic Church – a church that prioritises the image of church as a ‘family of God’ and works within the framework of the church at the service of ‘reconciliation, justice and peace’? Both the model of Church as a ‘family of God’ and the missionary framework of the church at the service of reconciliation, justice, and peace’ emphasise the intricate link between the well-being of the human community and the well-being of the environment.

This research thesis seeks to assess environmental justice concerns or the lack thereof in the pastoral priorities of the Catholic Church in Sierra Leone and to argue for the integration of environmental concern and care in its mission. Through critical engagement with Pope Francis’ landmark encyclical, On the Care of our Common Home – Laudato Si’ (2015) in concert with an analysis of my empirical research that I carried out in the four dioceses comprising the Catholic Church in Sierra Leone on the current state of Catholic Church’s engagement with environmental justice issues, I make the case that the environmental challenge confronting Sierra Leone is not only a socio-economic and political problem, but also a moral and spiritual problem that requires an urgent pastoral response from the Catholic Church and by extension other religious communities in the country. I argue that Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’ offers a rare opportunity for the Catholic Church in Sierra Leone to reprise its prophetic role and respond to the cry of the earth together with the cry of the poor. In line with the goal of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’, namely the cultivation of ecological virtues, I will propose that if the Catholic Church in Sierra Leone is to effectively engage with environmental justice issues, it should seek to re-enhance and promote ecological awareness, ecological conversion and environmental sustainability practices in Catholic institutions – parishes, schools, development agencies – and in its outward engagements in ecumenical and interfaith spaces, with governmental and non-governmental agencies, and civil society groups.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: Clague, Ms. Julie and O’Connor, Dr. John
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-83845
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2023 13:33
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2023 14:04
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83845

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