Kobia Congratulates First Female African Nobel laureate

Samuel Kobia, the general secretary of the world’s largest ecumenical fellowship, offered “warm congratulations” to Mrs. Wangari Maathai for her receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for 2004.

“Being the first African woman in history to receive this prestigious Prize, you have brought honour to the African Continent and its people. Today, in Africa, every woman, man and child must feel proud of your achievement,” began Kobia.

Kobia took note that Maathai, the current assistant minister of environment in the Kenyan government, was once the WCC’s advisor on environmental issues. Maathai was the keynote speaker at the WCC’s conference on “Faith and Science” at the Masachusetts Institute of Technology in 1979.

“The World Council of Churches is fortunate to have had you as an advisor on environmental issues,” wrote Kobia in his Oct. 8 letter. “Having gained much from your insights, we have always treasured this association.”

Maathai is best known for her founding Nigeria’s Green Belt movement in 1977 – a national campaign against deforestation across Africa. The movement began as a tree-planting effort to slow deforestations, but is grew to include projects to preserve biodiversity, education and social rights.

The following is the full text of the letter, as delivered to Prof. Maathai on October 8.

Letter from the WCC general secretary to
H.E. Prof. Wangari Maathai, assistant minister
Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources
Government of Kenya
8 October 2004

Your Excellency,
We greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

On behalf of the World Council of Churches and as your compatriot, I congratulate you for being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2004. Being the first African woman in history to receive this prestigious Prize, you have brought honour to the African Continent and its people. Today, in Africa, every woman, man and child must feel proud of your achievement.

The World Council of Churches is fortunate to have had you as an advisor on environmental issues. We fondly recall your participation in the Faith and Science Conference, which the Council organized at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the year 1979, where you were the key-note speaker. This was a landmark conference in our history as it was instrumental in setting up the programme on “Just, Participatory and Sustainable Societies”. Having gained much from your insights, we have always treasured this association.

The Nobel Peace Prize is in recognition of the immense service you have rendered to sustaining life through saving the environment from wanton destruction. This you have done through the Green Belt movement, which you founded in 1977 and which has made a valuable contribution to earth ethics. You have done all this through mobilizing the people and through legislative means. Your campaign against deforestation across Africa is a unique contribution not only to save African forests, but also African lives.

As the Nobel Committee correctly says, you represent an “example and a source of inspiration for everyone in Africa fighting for sustainable development, democracy and peace”.

May our Lord's blessings be with you as you continue to work for His creation and for His people.

Yours in Christ,
Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia
General Secretary