It is two weeks before the international climate change meeting, COP26, and faith communities around the world are demanding “compassionate, loving, and just” climate commitments by governments and financial institutions. People of faith have become increasingly impatient that governments, corporations, and financial institutions have not addressed the climate crisis despite decades of warnings from scientists and mounting climate impacts. On Sunday 17 October – as part of the globally-coordinated Faiths 4 Climate Justice – faith leaders and climate justice activists joined the Cape Town Unitarians spiritual community and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI) in a service to sound the alarm for climate justice and demand action from key decision-makers.
Over 200 high-level religious leaders from many faith traditions have signed the Sacred People, Sacred Earth demands. These demands go further than the statement released by the Vatican in early October. Faith communities are calling for an end to fossil fuels and deforestation, and a just, equitable transition to 100% renewable energy; millions of jobs to “build back fossil free” from COVID-19, a welcome for climate refugees and people impacted by climate chaos, and climate reparations from wealthy countries responsible for the lion’s share of emissions historically. As South Africans, we also call for no more nuclear energy which cannot be a part of a just transition and fight against climate change.
SAFCEI’s Executive Director Francesca de Gasparis says, “Those of us in the global South experience the climate crisis as a reality, and this year the rest of the world has caught up with us. We have witnessed major weather events all around the world. These tragic events should have woken up anyone who could have still thought addressing climate change should be delayed to after 2030. SAFCEI, representing our constituency of faith communities in Southern Africa, is calling for a serious and binding commitment from world leaders in response to the science. This commitment should be meaningful and reflect the urgency and ambition needed.”
Cele Esau from the Cape Town Unitarians, host to Sunday’s event says, “Here in South Africa, as faith communities, we are focused to address climate change and to continue the campaign for no new nuclear power in our country. I believe we need to put an end to the desecration of our Earth. We need to respect and promote the rights of indigenous people and I believe we need to move towards 100% renewable energy for all. Our religions envision a world transformed, in which the era of conquest, extraction and exploitation has given way to cooperation, regeneration and community.”
Faiths 4 Climate Justice is a global multi-faith action with faith communities taking actions across the world. It is organised by the GreenFaith International Network, of which SAFCEI is a founding member. The service at the Unitarian church in central Cape Town opened with a call to prayer by SAFCEI board member, Imam Salieg Isaacs from Masjid Ighwa tul Islam Bridgetown Mosque in Athlone Cape Town.
SAFCEI’s Energy and Climate Justice Coordinator and a member of the Lutheran faith, Khulekani Magwaza says, “COP26 is a crucial and critical moment that will define the future. The world must realize that we are at a propitious time where climate action is an emergency. When God creates the Earth, she sees it as good, and very good. The climate change effects, such as droughts, floods, heatwaves, and many more, which exacerbate poverty and inequalities in our society, are a sign that we have not been good stewards of God’s creation. At COP26, the world, through its leaders will have to demonstrate their commitment to climate action, which will reconcile all God’s creation, in which human beings are part.”
Tebogo ‘Bino’ Makhalanyane from the Green Anglicans also attended the event. He says, “People of faith have a responsibility to fight against climate injustice and fight against exploitation. Government should stop just talking and start implementing policies. The word says in Genesis ‘you shall have dominion over creation’, but we have exploited, misused and misquoted that. My belief is that the dominion that we were given is the dominion of taking care and dominion of showing love to all of God’s creation. We can see how climate change continues to affect us. We can see how it continues to rob, especially the poorest of the poor because of those who are greedy. Now let us rise and fight against the injustice that we continue to experience. If not for you, for your grandchildren and their children that will come after that, because it is in restoring creation that we shall see an everlasting life.”
SAFCEI and its partners call on all people of faith, over the next two weeks – in the lead-up to COP26, where governments and other key decision-makers will decide what to do about the intensifying climate emergency – to join the Faiths 4 Climate Justice campaign, sign the Faiths 4 Climate Justice petition and share it widely in your networks. For more information, get in touch with SAFCEI via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also check out more on Monday’s events, go to https://greenfaith.org/faiths4climatejustice/.
See additional comments from faith communities who are members of SAFCEI and are supporting the Faiths 4 Climate Justice campaign, below:
From South Africa:
Bishop Geoff Davies, The Green Bishop, Patron and founder of SAFCEI, and co-founder of the Anglican Communion Environment Network in Cape Town says, “The world is in crisis. Creation is threatened. Daily we hear the cry of the Earth in species extinctions, in global warming, in material poverty and gross inequality and injustice, in conflict. The solution is to follow the ethical principles upheld by all faiths. It is essential we seek and uphold the truth and justice called for by God and abandon the worship of wealth and material possessions. (Matthew 6:24). Now is the time for Faith communities of the world to uphold the sacredness of people and life and creation. If we fail to do so now, we fail our children and God’s creation.”
Sister Letta Mosue, a Catholic nun from Rustenburg says, “I am very passionate to save our planet, by restoring the ecosystem. And, as a member of SAFCEI, I add my voice to Faiths 4 Climate Justice.”
Khoi Traditional Andre Naidoo from Ocean View in Cape Town says, “If you have been hiding under a rock somewhere, ignoring how fast technology and commerce is changing our environment, you have to ask yourself: how quickly are they going to get to YOUR ROCK, and disrupt you and your rock! All we ask, as the planet goes fast forward, is just press the pause button, and look back. Look also to Indigenous Knowledge Systems and try to find the energy solutions and environmental safe zones that we may have missed that were planted into our rocks, plants, and nature, over thousands of years ago.”
Pastor Mazwi Ndikolo from Khayelitsha in Cape Town says, “My faith as a Christian demands that I stand for justice. We and many other countries are faced with tragic experiences like air and water pollution due to negligence from governments. As a Christian, part of discipleship involves a relationship with creation and a creator. We will not rest until governments get it right.”
Pastor Emmanuel Magambo from Uganda and a member of the Pentacostal Christian Church says, “Creation waits for an eager expectation for the redemption of the son of God and the creation declares the glory of God. Creation is what it should be in declaring the glory, the beauty, the design of a wonderful God.”
Gabriel Manyangadze, SAFCEI’s Food and Climate Justice Coordinator based in Zimbabwe says, “Our God, the Creator, provided for us through placing mankind into a thriving biodiversity; however, our desire for unsustainable development has set us on the collision course with the disturbed and unbalanced core creation. It is time to do what can be done to stem the anthropogenic induced climate change generational disaster that is looming. Anthropogenic-induced climate change is real, let us follow our faith to jump back to the safe development trajectory.”
Representing a number of organisations including the Zimbabwe Council of Churches and the Methodist Church of Zimbabwe, according to Sebia Kwaramba, “God made us stewards of his creation by putting us on this earth to take care of his environment. We need to demonstrate that as faith leaders, we have got the mandate given to us by God to take care of the earth.”
Anglican faith leader from Zimbabwe Barbra Chihuri says, “There are so many things which are happening which are abnormal like field fires, like drought, like floods, etc. If we do not look after our own resources, we will end up with an earth which is very much inhabitable; therefore, I feel that I should conscientise others in fighting climate change.
Sheik Qassim Chakwakwa, a Muslim representative from Al-a’nbia Foundation in Lilongwe, Malawi says, “This is our obligation as faith leaders to be involved in such climate justice. When God created everything including rivers, the mountains, valleys. Now there was no manager to take care of the earth, so he created man and made him a manager to manage all this creation.
Canon Andrew Sumani, an Anglican from Lilongwe in Malawi says, “God’s care is our care. He cares for the environment. Yet, the environment is in tears because of our injustices to her. I am because nature is. I finish it. I finish myself. Nature is my companion for all seasons. I pledge my love for it.”
Catholic Bishop Joseph Obanyi Sagwe from Kakamega in Kenya says, “Now more than ever in the history of Humanity, all of us have a religious duty to take care of creation and to protect the environment. When we are in touch with creation we are closer to the creator. We praise God through creation. Let us preserve it!”