Kailean Khongsai, a Church Mission Society mission partner who works as community project manager at Christian conservation charity A Rocha UK, this month addressed a groundbreaking environmental conference at the Vatican. He called for a greater focus on creation care and renewed investment in environmental programmes that can regenerate urban landscapes.
The conference, which took place at the Pontifical Gregorian University (Piazza della Pilotta) in Rome, was called Radical Ecological Conversion After Laudato Si – Discovering the Intrinsic Value of All Creatures. It explored implications for the academy, the Church and society of the teaching of the Holy Father on the intrinsic worth of all creatures, and the need to re-order human society and the natural order of creation.
In his address, Kailean highlighted how urbanisation has frequently resulted in people becoming disconnected from nature. He called for an investment in programmes that will transform waste and derelict land in urban communities into spaces where the whole community can benefit from the natural world.
Kailean drew attention to Wolf Fields, a recent A Rocha project in Southall, West London. He said, “At one time the three acre site was used as a brick works. It fell into disrepair and became a neglected wasteland used only for rubbish dumping, drug taking and substance abuse.
“Local residents used to avoid the site but it has been transformed to incorporate an organic food-growing plot, sensory garden, wildlife pond, orchard, beehives, bird cam and a story-telling area.
“Antisocial behaviour has dropped significantly and the local community has got involved, helping to maintain the site, learning about local wildlife and growing their own food.”
The event was organised by Georgian, German and Dutch Embassies to the Holy See (Vatican City). Kailean was invited to address the priests, religious leaders, scientists and teachers attending the conference, on the basis of his experience in leading practical environmental projects in a multicultural context.
Kailean concluded, “We live in a period of uncertainty but rather than this uncertainty directing us towards hopelessness and inaction, we can choose to give it the best of our abilities. Let us rethink our responsibility with regard to God’s world.”
Originally from Manipur, north east India, Kailean has been a CMS mission partner for several years; he manages A Rocha UK’s work in the local community, providing ideas, resources, speakers and support for churches who put caring for God’s earth at the heart of mission.