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Marthinus L. Daneel is a senior professor (Missiology) at the University of South Africa and director of the Zimbabwean Institute of Religious Research and Ecological Conservation. In 1995-1996, he was at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University studying the role of African traditional religion in changing societies, particularly in the varied processes of liberation (sociopolitical, economic, and environmental) in Southern Africa. He has been working on a four-volume series on the role of religion (primarily in Zimbabwe but also focusing on comparative parallels elsewhere in Southern Africa), the culmination of more than a decade of sustained involvement with the Shona people in Zimbabwe.

 

Abstract of paper given at Christianity and Ecology conference:
Church and Eco-justice at the African Grassroots

This paper traces the profile of a grassroots ecclesiology as it emerges in the earthkeeping ministry of Zimbabwe's African Independent Churches (AlCs). During tree-planting ceremonies the mission of the church is described by participant AIC leaders as an extension of Christ's healing ministry, in the form of earth-care. Missionary outreach therefore involves more than human soul-salvation, as the redemption of all creation is at stake. The structural implications are noticeable as some of the AIC headquarters develop into "environmental hospitals." The "patient" in this instance is the denuded land and the "dispensary" becomes the nursery, where the correct "medicine" for the patient is being cultivated. The tree-planting eucharist is in itself the witnessing event, the proclamation of good news unto all the earth. The good news of eco-justice takes shape in the planting of millions of trees and the development of new ethical codes for environmental protection by the participant churches. Such good news repeatedly underscores social justice in the empowerment of the poor and marginalized people in Africa and related two-thirds world countries to make a contribution of such significance that it captures, for once, the imagination of the nation and the recognition of the government.

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