It was a cloudy, dry day, perfect for planting trees. Children were playing around the Nairobi Chapel Ongata Rongai Church in anticipation of guests and worshippers.
But today was somewhat out of the ordinary. The praise and worship team had practiced till late, and the pulpit was being re-arranged for the third time. The compound was neat with recently planted tree seedlings at their best... Today’s service was going to be special-a Muslim would be giving the Sunday preach!
In preparation for this special day, Rudolf Makhanu had worked tirelessly over the previous few weeks to organize a cleanup campaign for the area, in partnership with UN Environment, the county government and the Nairobi Chapel. The cleanup was a resounding success: 360 participants, including many street vendors, collected three tonnes of littered plastics, all of them motivated by the collective action and UN Environment’s leadership.
Church worshippers greeted their special guest, Iyad Abumoghli, principal coordinator of the Faith for Earth Initiative, the Muslim they were waiting for, and watched from afar, waiting to see if the guest would enter their church. Makhanu and the Sunday hosts warmly received Abumoghli and ushered him to meet Reverend Ondachi. There was sudden calmness when he walked into church with a smile on his face.
A moment later, Abumoghli joined other guests outside for a ceremonial tree planting. Planting trees around the Church seemed to be everyone’s favourite activity—they were giving back to nature. Abumoghli planted an Olkaria tree, which coincidentally is native to Jordan, his home country.
Church ceremonies that Sunday were extremely joyful and eventful. The praise and worship team was at its best. Some members who had dropped off had rejoined. Service hosts made announcements, and shared the programme, occasionally stammering while pronouncing the terms “Sustainable Development Goals”. It was evident from the colour scheme that the environment was the theme of the service. Makhanu, simply referred to as “the UN guy”, because he invited a UN representative to visit the Nairobi Chapel, could be seen occasionally communicating with the service hosts. He gave the opening speech, recounting a historical perspective of the formation of Eden’s Stewards, the status of environmental pollution in Rongai, and projects being undertaken to address the problem. He made reference to Gen 2:15 where God tasked man to care for the environment.
In his address to the congregants, Abumoghli told the story of Noah building the Ark to save his people and all creatures of God, even the tiny little mosquitoes, as God created all things for a purpose. Being a Muslim from the holy land touched the hearts of those who were listening and agreeing that there were no differences between religions in the necessity to protect God’s creation and our natural resources. This was further reiterated by Reverend Ondachi, senior pastor of Nairobi Chapel Ongata Rongai, as well as Stanley Bhebhe, Vice Chancellor of Africa Nazarene University. During closing remarks, it was decided that cleanup operations be held every month, with all stakeholders in Rongai.
No matter what faith we believe in, we all have an ethical and religious obligation to protect our only planet and leave it as we received it for generations to come. The UN Environment Faith for Earth Initiative works with the different religions to inspire and empower faith-based passion for action to protect our environment.