God's Family, God's Earth:

Christian Ecological Ethics of Ubuntu

by Kapya John Kaoma

Foreword by President Joyce Banda of Malawi


Kapya John Kaoma's Web Resources:


The importance of this book is that it provokes and unsettles all of us; politicians, religious leaders, and all Africans. We have no time to point fingers; Mother Africa is counting on us to heal her wounds. We must form environmental protection clubs in schools, churches, cities and villages. These clubs can aid governments’ efforts to protect our environment.

I am highly honored to write this foreword to this important book by our own son of Africa. I highly recommend this book to be “a must read” by academics, religious leaders, and politicians across the world. It is my prayer that this book will initiate honest discussions and actions by all daughters and sons of Africa both at home and in the diaspora.....

Please don’t just read this book; act to save Mother Africa! (From the Foreword)

Joyce Banda (Mrs.)
The President of the Republic of Malawi
Earth Day 2013

As the mounting ecological crisis threatens our planet and Africa in particular, Kaoma confidently initiates a global moral discourse needed in our time. Since the escalating environmental predicament is the biggest moral issue of our generation, Kaoma has undertaken an extraordinary scholarly and prophetic task of exploring the role of Ubuntu in addressing this problem. Filled with invaluable lessons and insights, the book challenges us to reassess our attitudes towards the natural world. Planted in both African and Christian traditions, the book alerts us to one existential reality: how we relate to the Earth will determine the future of life on this planet. We are one Earth family, God’s Family. We must protect the rights and dignity of Creation without overlooking those of the poor. The timeliness of this book cannot be overemphasized. We face the monstrous disaster with serious life-threatening consequences.

Because Africa is one of the most venerable continents to the effects of this crisis, we must proactively work to arrest the ongoing disaster. But, the recurring crisis is also a faith issue. The Earth is the Lord’s; thus a sacrament of ecologically interconnected beings held together in Jesus Christ, who, as Kaoma argues, is the Creator, the Life and the Ecological Ancestor of all life. Just as we fought against colonialism, racism and apartheid, we must unite to fight this life-threatening problem.

Future generations will judge the greatness of our generation by our commitment to make the Earth a better place.

I recommend God’s Family, God’s Earth to all those who value the ethics of ubuntu across the globe.

The Most Revd. Desmond Mpilo Tutu
Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town
Nobel Peace Laureate and Honorary Elder

Kapya Kaoma has gone deeply into African and Christian traditions to analyze the plight of the earth and to pose an alternate future for earth care, grounded in the riches of African traditions of ubuntu and Christian theologies of sacrality. In this masterful work, Dr. Kaoma challenges his people and all of the peoples of the world to change their attitudes and worldviews to respect and care for the interconnected universe. Recognizing the religious conditioning that has helped shape the present crisis, he offers religious perspectives that can shape future responses. Specifically, he reclaims Tonga traditions, and those of the wider Bantu culture, and he transforms even these traditions in light of the growing ecological and human crisis. Through a careful exploration of historical movements, political actions, and theological perspectives, Dr. Kaoma paints a devastating picture of the present situation, but he leaves the reader with more than devastation; he offers a richly textured and hope-filled vision for the future.

Mary Elizabeth Moore
Dean and Professor of Theology and Education
Boston University School of Theology

Dr. Kapya John Kaoma’s ecological ethics is of singular importance for various reasons:           
First, a comprehensive theological study on the environment in Africa from the perspective of African realities, philosophy and religion, has long been overdue. Dr. Kaoma’s work therefore represents a landmark in that he boldly and with great enthusiasm selects and addresses a number of major ecological issues worthy of consideration.

            Second, the author’s narrative on African cosmologies and related religious subjects are placed sufficiently within the orbit of the publications of prominent African theologians, such as John Mbiti, Bujo Nyamiti, Okot p’Bitek and others to enhance the further development of insights and stimulate discourse at the core of African theology and related disciplines.

            Third, the cosmology of the Simamba Tonga in the Kariba Valley and the centrality of their relatedness to the ancestral guardians of the land, in their religiously defined opposition to the building of the Kariba dam, are masterfully woven into the text as an illustration of a crucial dimension in the development of an African ecological ethics. From a carefully crafted vignette of fieldwork among the Tonga, Dr. Kaoma arrives at the conclusion that “the ancestor cult is in fact the cult of Earth since it seeks to uphold the ecological balance of the ecosphere.”

            Fourth, is the center-piece of Kaoma’s treatise; the development of an authentic African vision for the Earth in the Ethics of Ubuntu. Derived from a well-known Bantu term, ubuntu signifies “to be fully human.” In the context of Earth-ethics it means active and respectful interconnectedness of humans with the entire Earth-community, starting with the Supreme Being and ancestors, and including all creatures and beings in creation. In African Christian terms ubuntuinterconnectedness, according to the author, inevitably calls for a Christology of the Earth.

            This book breathes the spirit of a prophet! In so far as it celebrates, by implication, the sacrificial lives of thousands of African earthkeepers who have already enacted their own brand of ubuntuservice – for instance, through the planting of millions of trees in Kenya and Zimbabwe – it rekindles the flames of engagement in the struggle for the liberation and salvation of God’s creation throughout Africa and the entire world.

--Professor Marthinus Louis Daneel
Author of African Earthkeepers Vols. 1 & 2
Founder of ZIRRCON in Zimbabwe

In this work, Kapya John Kaoma writes on a central issue of our time, the ecological crisis in Africa. He writes with an uncommon passion and flavor that makes this book quite compelling to read. After years of talking about African theology, scholars are finally providing clear applications of how African theology addresses existential matters of our time. The author takes us through a theology of the environment. He draws upon multiple fields and interests, in particular Christianity and indigenous African religion, to make a strong case for why we need to act before we are consumed by this ecological crisis.

As he rightly argues in this work, the environmental problem in Africa requires more than just a theoretical approach, but indeed it requires practical responses from all sectors of our community, so that we survive these destructive tides of environmental plundering. Unfortunately, for the continent, both of the sources of our wealth, which are mineral and oil resources, and the most disturbing parts of our contemporary life, which are intra-continental wars and violence, have had terrible impacts on the environment.

Grounded in the deep analysis of the African religious worldview and values, and biblical Christianity, Kaoma provides a stronger response than we have had before. I recommend this book to not only scholars, but also to a general readership. It can be a useful book for courses in religion, theology, environmental studies, and politics, and a manual for the clergy, human rights activists, and statesmen and women who equally have significant roles to play in the formatting policies that will ensure ecologically sustainable development.

Jacob K. Olupona
Professor of African and American Studies
Professor of African Religious Traditions,
Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University

God’s Family, God’s Earth is a creative, insightful, in-depth, well-researched, and well-written exploration of complementary spiritual beliefs, values, and ethics in African religious traditions and Christian thought. The book provides for the reader and for peoples of Mother Africa a thoughtful proposal that Christ is the ecological ancestor of all biota, an innovative concept that relates to African cosmological ecologies in which all elements of the universe are intertwined in creation in the interaction of divine spirits and energies with biotic entities and Earth.

Integrated understandings of the sacramental and sacred nature of Earth, and the relation of Christ as ecological ancestor with human ancestors who continue to guide their people as spirits, provide a socioecological ethics that addresses issues of human overpopulation and exploitive capitalism, and their joint promotion of ecological devastation, species extinction, and economic injustice. Kapya John Kaoma’s important work provides hope and a guide for addressing socioecological injustices contextually and globally, and a vision for and commitment to realizing a brighter future for Mother Africa—and Earth as a whole.

John Hart, Ph.D., Professor of Christian Ethics,
Boston University School of Theology;
Author of Sacramental Commons:
Christian Ecological Ethics and Cosmic Commons: Spirit, Science, and Space.
International lecturer on socioecological ethics.

Kaoma’s message is clear, Africa’s and the world’s future depends on how we take up the ethics of ubuntu, right relationships, integration and interconnectedness. Equally at home with the western ecological thinking of such theorists as John Hart, Rosemary Radford Reuther and Paul Santmire as with the Gwembe Tonga and African theologians John Mbiti or Mercy Amba Oduyoye, Kaoma’s concept of Christ as ecological ancestor intersects with this rich literature and promotes an impetus not only to ecological consciousness and action but to a deepened necessity for interfaith relationships.

Rodney L. Petersen, PhD
Executive Director
Boston Theological Institute


God's Family, God's Earth book cover

Also by Kapya John Kaoma:


American Culture Warriors in Africa: A Guide to the Exporters of Homophobia and Sexism is a new, popular-format guidebook designed to educate U.S. audiences and motivate all people of conscience to take action that interrupts the persecution of women and sexual minorities overseas.



Kaoma's 2012 investigative report on how American religious conservatives are building organizational strength to promote homophobia and attacks on reproductive rights in sub-Saharan Africa.
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A groundbreaking investigation by Rev. Kapya Kaoma of Political Research Associates exposes how the U.S. Right mobilizes African Protestant clergy to protest any movement towards LGBT equality in U.S. mainline churches while promoting an agenda that criminalizes homosexuality in Africa.
Download the pdf