By Lydia Mogano
While SAFCEI has focused its attention predominantly on South Africa in the past, we are now actively expanding our community to the SADC region. At the end of July, SAFCEI made a first visit to Zimbabwe, which we found successful and very inspiring. Our Regional Coordinator, Lydia Mogano reports:
Liz McDaid (Energy & Climate Change Programme) and I travelled to Harare, Zimbabwe between the 19th and 28th July 2012. The journey began with a two-day interactive Climate Change Workshop hosted by the Greek Orthodox and ended with several meetings with various faith leaders, organizations, and congregations in Harare.
The Climate Change Workshop
Participants at the workshop were seventeen Greek Orthodox members including priests, community workers, and youth participants from youth and women’s groups. The aims of the workshop were to: provide a broad understanding of SAFCEI and its work; build the capacity of the participants to understand climate change and renewable energy; provide some training to participants on how to convey the climate change message to their local faith communities – to initiate a process of training more climate change ambassadors.Each day started and ended with prayer in the chapel and the conference room. On the first day, the participants discussed in detail the environmental and weather changes they or their older relatives had observed over time. The methodology was focused on eliciting participation, relating new concepts to existing knowledge, and providing opportunities for consolidation of knowledge and practical skills. They also applied local knowledge and discussed the phenomenon of climate change. They discussed how climate change will impact on the world, biodiversity, water, agriculture, food security, energy, health etc. and how these are already revealing themselves in Zimbabwe. This exercise also provided an opportunity for participants to consolidate their own knowledge, to analyse the different sort of approaches that might be needed to convince a variety of target audiences, and to handle questions on their knowledge of the environment.
On the second day, the group participated in an intense information session in which the facilitator shared in depth knowledge of climate change adaptation examples, and knowledge of renewable energy, specifically the sun. Part of the adaptation session was to look at sustainable methods of growing food, coping with reduced crop yields as well as responding disasters. Aside from the informative lecture, we had a question and answer session and watched videos. This was followed by practical applications of some of the concepts covered in the morning. Participants made solar ovens, and produced insulated containers in groups (demonstration size models that could be used for demonstration purposes in their communities).
At lunchtime, the participants had a small ceremony to install a signboard outside, on the wall of the Archbishop’s grounds, which reads “Keep the environment clean, respect the creation of God.” After lunch, the workshop focused on SAFCEI and its activities, its history and a short summary of some of the activities, programmes and some inspiring examples, particularly on the achievements of the South African youth ambassadors in preparation for COP17.
The two-day workshop closed with a round of closing comments, where participants committed to sharing what they had learnt from the workshop to others. This workshop will soon be covered in one of Zimbabwe’s local newspapers.
Positive meetings with various faith leaders, organizations, and congregations in Harare
I received a warm welcome from all the faith leaders I have met in Harare, Zimbabwe and I really appreciate the time they have sacrificed to make these meeting possible. In all six meetings, faith leaders were introduced to SAFCEI and I provided a brief background of the organization, programmes, activities, and events. They were also presented SAFCEI’s brochure, theological leaflets (Christian, Islam, and Hindu); declarations (Nairobi and Kenya declaration papers), eco-congregations and “We Have Faith” leaflets and small leaflets and posters on climate change, biodiversity, water and waste small leaflets and posters. Each organization or congregation also had a chance to share on their work, experiences and contribution to their communities and a discussion about possible collaboration were undertaken. All the meetings were very successful as all the faith leaders saw a great potential and need for collaboration. There was an incredible response and feedback. Faith leaders were enthusiastic about SAFCEI’s work and they are going to disseminate the message of the work of SAFCEI to their constituencies throughout Zimbabwe. They also requested more resources to spread the message.
Also inspiring to note is that, as part of their long awaited desire, there was a wide recognition from the faith leaders that there is a need for Zimbabwe to have an interfaith structure to unite the churches towards solidarity and initiate dialogues between faiths with SAFCEI’s facilitation. Since this is our first trip to Zimbabwe, I hope that this is the beginning of a healthy partnership towards taking care of God’s creation together. I look forward to the next trip and a more sustainable future.
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