Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Tribute to Wangari Mathaai, Memories of Heaven

I first met Wangari Mathaai on the sidelines of an international environmental event in Nairobi. Her attractive personality and her devotion for the environment would engage anyone who dealt with her. In 2004 during a conference for Women Leaders of the Environment, where women ministers had gathered to discuss policy on the environment, the UNEP undersecretary announced that Mathaai was chosen as the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. The excitement from this news and her presence in the session led many of us to congratulate her for her outstanding achievements for peace, eradication of poverty and protection of the environment. Wangari was a vanguard not only for African women but for women throughout the world. She had moved ahead in both education and civil society , despite her difficult conditions to serve women in her country and her continent. Her Green Belt Movement has planted more than 30 million trees in Africa and has helped nearly 900,000 women, according to the United Nations, while inspiring similar efforts in other African countries.
In 2008, after being pushed out of government, she was hit with tear gas by the police during a protest against the excesses of Kenya’s entrenched political class.
“Wangari Maathai was a force of nature,” said Achim Steiner, the executive director of the United Nations’ environmental program. He likened her to Africa’s ubiquitous acacia trees, “strong in character and able to survive sometimes the harshest of conditions.”

I stood at the podium that day and thanked Professor  Wangari  Mathaai and told her that since the year before Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian woman and human rights lawyer, had won the Nobel Peace Prize, , I wished to congradulate her, on behalf of Iranian women. The Peace Prize I said, was in fact transferred from Iranian women to African women. I also gave her an environmental emblem of Mount Damavand which was designated as an Natural National Monument in Iran. Wangari spoke that day and she mentioned that we all see eternal salvation as residing in Heaven. "Heaven is according to Divine scripture , full of gardens , trees , pure water flowing", she said. "All the natural beauties of this world fit with the description that we have of Heaven, but when we destroy those beauties, here on earth , how can we expect to enjoy them, as a reward for our actions in Heaven...."
We also planted several trees that day... . We pray for her soul now, she sought to realize and protect that heaven on earth, she worked for the impoverished , she served the environment and she sided with justice against oppression . May God bless her for what she was.

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