People plant mango trees during Laudato Si’ Week in Naogaon district on May 19. (Photo: Caritas Bangladesh)
Inspired by Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical Laudato Si’, the Catholic Church of Bangladesh and its charity Caritas Bangladesh have mobilized more than 5 million people to protect the environment.
The Church is working on initiatives to protect the environment in various ways such as planting trees, keeping houses clean and tidy, eliminating plastics and being economical.
Holy Cross Father Liton Hubert Gomes, head of the climate desk of the Catholic bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission in Bangladesh, said the pope had inspired Catholics to work for the preservation of the environment.
“We are in dire need of a beautiful and humane, healthy world, and it is our responsibility to protect the planet that the pope has deeply conveyed through his encyclical Laudato Si’,” Father Gomes told UCA News.
“We are working to protect the poor, not just the environment but the human world through Caritas. We have involved all Catholics in protecting the environment.”
Caritas Bangladesh has been working to protect the environment in Bangladesh for a long time, but the pope's encyclical has multiplied the pace of that work.
We can change the world and leave a beautiful environment with a prosperous future
“We have already taken steps to eliminate plastics and focus on the use of recyclable materials, with the church we have completed 80 per cent of the 300,000 trees we wanted to plant and will plant 200,000 more this year,” Caritas Bangladesh project director James Gomes told UCA News.
Ekramul Haque, a Muslim beneficiary of Caritas projects in Rajshahi district, said that if people follow the pope's message to protect the environment, “we can change the world and leave a beautiful environment with a prosperous future.”
He said he had planted at least 20 fruit trees around his house.
“Since the environment is involved in our lives, it is easy to make people aware. We need to organize bigger seminars on the message of the pope, use the media and involve all stakeholders so that we can present our message,” Haque added.
Bangladesh is located on the floodplains of the world’s largest river delta system that empties into the Bay of Bengal, making the country vulnerable to natural disasters including cyclones, tidal surges, flooding and riverbank erosion.
Climate scientists have warned that due to global warming and melting polar icebergs, the sea level will rise by up to one meter by 2050. That poses great risks for low-lying countries like Bangladesh, where it is feared the entire southern coastal region could be wiped out and about 20 million people displaced.