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Our Regional Interfaith Dialogue series for 2022 got off to a powerful start on Monday 14 February, with our first Southern African conversation for the year entitled What does your faith say about the future of people and planet.  “Future” is a critical word here because this year, we focus on the voices of youth and we open an intergenerational conversation.

Thirty faith leaders from across the sub continent took part. Faith represented include Christianity, Muslim, African Traditional, Jewish, Interfaith and Baha’i.

The date of 14 February was chosen because it is the day SAFCEI has designated as Earthkeeper Day: the day we fall in love with our planet all over again, and give thanks for the bounty that is provided by Earth to feed and sustain us all year, every year. At SAFCEI, the Earth is our Valentine.

During 2021, a Cape Town resident, Carl Lindemann, published a free online book called Santa Soaked (www., and told the story of Santa Claus’s journey back from having become the patron saint of consumerism and greed, to his true original mission to bring joy, goodwill and hope to the world.

We measured this story about global issues of climate change that we have witnessed and experienced in recent months. The story tells the experience of diverse children around the globe, who are experiencing increasingly intense tornadoes, cyclones, ocean damage, flooding, drought and fire. The children are at first reluctant to tell Santa what is causing the destructive weather patterns, expressing mistrust because Santa is part of the adult world. Eventually, one young girl makes a decision to share the information and together, she and Santa discuss what, if anything, can be done to alleviate the situation. Together, she and Santa come to a number of important conclusions,  such as the importance of youth leadership, the need for action and the restoration of values beyond the consumerist world that Santa helped create. The book is available for free download at this link, and is designed to start conversations around dinner tables, at schools and between children and adults everywhere.

After the storytelling led by SAFCEI staff members Georgina Blumears, Khulekani Magwaza and Tlou Mpai, the delegates were allocated into breakout rooms for discussion. Three questions wee asked:

  1. Do you think it is possible for people of all races, languages and faiths to unite to work together to combat climate change or at least build resilience to manage its impact?
  2. What holds us back from helping each other with willing and open hearts?
  3. What is the relationship between youth and elders when discussing climate change?

SAFCEI staff as well as some of our younger faith leaders led the conversations which produced rich insights and commentary. Issues of discrimination and trust were raised. One group concluded that current systems are not collaborative or inclusive, and that policy makers do not listen to the poor or involve them in decision making. And yet, there was a simultaneous river of hope that ran through the narrative of the conversations, with everyone believing intrinsically that people are good and willing to overcome differences to work together for the greater good. The benefit of the youth is that they have strength, capacity and fresh ideas. The benefit the elders bring is their experience, stability, education and wisdom. The conversation has begun.

By Rev Berry Behr, SAFCEI’s Faith Leader Liaison

Watch our Regional Interfaith Dialogues on YouTube.


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