News Release

ACLARS law and religion conference ends with renewed appeals to protect environment

Participants provide African perspectives on Human Dignity

The Seventh Annual Law and Religion in Africa Conference has concluded in the Botswana capital Gaborone with a reinvigorated sense of understanding about the intricate interplay between law, religion and the environment in Africa, where belief, faith and tradition intersect with the environment from cradle to the grave.

From tending ancestral graves, or revering certain animals, to worshiping on a mountain or being baptized in a river, religion in Africa is intertwined with the environment, participants observed.

More than 200 participants, including scholars and representatives of various denominations gathered for three days to unpack the critical theme of the conference. Countries represented at the conference included South Africa, the United States, the United Kingdom, Algeria, Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Italy, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Notable guests included His Majesty Dr. Nii Okwei Kinka Dowuona VI, Osu Mantse and President of the Osu Traditional Council of Ghana, and Hon. Minister Nonofo Molefhi, Botswana’s minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, and Elder Marcus B. Nash of the Africa West Area Presidency for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


In his speech to officially open the conference, Minister Molefhi said it was important for everyone to understand the African moral code of Ubuntu or Botho (in the local Setswana) as it demanded respect for the environment, for humanity and for nature. “By this I mean that all of us should be mindful of how all of us relate to one another in a meaningful manner,” he told the conference.

“All of us should be conscious of our behaviour and all of us should be aware how our actions affect familial ties, communal relations and social connections. On top of that all of us should be conscious of the extent to which our deeds have negative knock-on effects on the environment in which we all operate,” Molefhi added.



In his address, Elder Nash emphasized Africa’s significant role in the future of many religions due to projected population growth and the faith of Africans. “Africa is destined to wield a powerful and a significant influence in the world. Faith and religion will play an indispensable role in the nature of that influence,” he said in his welcoming remarks.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is experiencing rapid growth throughout the continent of Africa, Elder Nash added. He shared five fundamental points of doctrine of the Church, saying they underscored the need for proper stewardship of the Earth:

-              “The Earth exists to provide a place for humankind to live, gain experience and progress.”

-              “Our actions determine our destiny.”

-              “The Earth provides resources that benefit mankind.”

-              “We will make use of the bounties of this Earth as stewards not owners of God’s creation.”

-              “We must learn to love God and our neighbour before ourselves.”

At the end of the conference the participants contributed African perspectives to put into context to “The Punta Del Este Declaration on Human Dignity for Everyone Everywhere” of 2018. It serves as a fresh reaffirmation of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The conference was organized by the African Consortium for Law and Religion Studies (ACLARS), with support from various contributors and institutions, including the University of Botswana, The International Centre for Law and Religion Studies of the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University and The Oslo Coalition for Freedom of Religion or Belief.

In 2020 the conference is scheduled to be hosted on May 17-20 in Nairobi, Kenya, with the theme: Law, Religion and the Family. In 2018 it was held in Abuja, Nigeria, under the theme Law, Religion, and Human Flourishing.

Conference proceedings and updates will be available on the ACLARS website:

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