We’re delighted to share this project from the Mill Hill Misssionaries, in Douala, Cameroon. On the tenth anniversary of his ordination, Fr Innocent Wefon Akum shares his mission to preserve our common home – bringing the principles of Laudato Si’ to life in his ‘Project 3560 at 10’. This inspiring film shows how his mission – and his parish – is growing and flourishing from simple beginnings.
Inspired for mission
Fr Innocent counts himself a ‘very blessed person’. And he’s paid those blessings forward in his 10 years as a priest. After his ordination in Cameroon, he was sent to Kenya, where he was first inspired by an experienced Mill Hill Missionary. He shares:
‘He was a very great inspiration to me. When I went there he was planting trees, he had a farm. And I bought [into] his missionary spirituality. I was then sent to Rwanda and I continued with that spirituality, which is the spirituality of our present Pope: to care for the environment’.
Fr Innocent only stayed a short time in Kenya, before he was sent on to Rwanda. He stayed there for almost seven years, and planted more than 5000 trees, ‘as my own contribution towards Mother Earth.’
From tiny seeds… and throwaway plastic
Fr Innocent returned to Cameroon to start a new parish in Douala. Faith is growing, and so is the community garden. Standing in the community garden he built using thousands of discarded plastic bottles, Fr Innocent explains his plan:
‘It’s 10 years exactly since I was ordained a priest in 2011. And I want to dedicate this wonderful milestone to God Almighty, and to the beautiful creation which God has given us. So in protecting the environment, I decided to start a project dubbed ‘3,650 plastic bottles at 10’. I wanted to pick 3650 plastic bottles so that we can free our environment from littering and all the plastic bottles which are around.’
Healing our common home
Sadly, the goal of 3,650 bottles was all too easy to reach. In fact, Fr Innocent has collected more than 10,000. But faced with such a mountain of rubbish, he has only become more passionate about his mission.
‘My advice is to go back to what we have in Laudato Si’… the earth is a common home, and if it not well looked after, there are some catastrophic disasters which all of us will suffer. It is our place now to ‘consciencise’ the people, to inform them, to encourage them that yes, the earth has been given to us by God, but we need to care for it. Anything that is not cared for can be dangerous; can be disastrous; can be less productive. So we must look after our common home’.
‘I see the amount of deforestation that people are doing, and yet there are so little trees being planted. I see the way we treat plastics and yet these plastics in themselves are very destructive to the environment. Our biodiversity: there are plants and animals and bird which today we no longer see. Why? Because we have not treated the environment so well. I wish people would buy [into] this idea so that we can preserve our biodiversity. So that we can live happily in this, our common home’.
Fr Innocent implores everyone to join his mission wherever we are through two simple actions: gather waste plastic, and plant trees. Simple actions with a big impact – one we can all get involved in, wherever we are in this common home.
Help missionaries continue their vital work
Missio supports the work of the Mill Hill Missionaries through the Red Box.