There was an overwhelming response to the invitations that were sent out for the Youth Leadership Workshop in November 2015. Twenty four dynamic and socio- politically aware candidates who care for the environment participated. A few of the participants were Cape based but the others travelled from Gauteng, KZN, Lesotho, Mozambique, Malawi and Swaziland. The workshop was held over 3 days at the Rocklands Adventure Centre in Simon’s Town. With its magnificent mountain backdrop and sweeping views across False Bay the centre was an ideal setting to reconnect with Nature.
“We have wanted to engage with young people who are actively involved in their faith communities for a long time,” explained Juanita Greyvenstein, SAFCEI’s Eco- congregation Co-ordinator. SAFCEI has a number of youth interns and both staff members Lydia Mogano and Tsepo Hlasoa work with young people of faith from all over Southern Africa.
The focus of the workshop was to lay the foundation for why we are Earth Keepers and to explore and experience the links between faith and the environment. The participants had a wonderful time, young people from different faith and cultural backgrounds enjoying opportunities to interact with each other and to spend time immersed in Nature. They visited the penguins at Boulders Beach and hiked up the mountain behind the centre.
It was not just about getting out of breath while experiencing the opposites of wild views and the intricate detail of undisturbed Nature. A series of presentations challenged the participants to draw the links between our interdependence with Nature and eco-justice issues. The presentations included: `What is Energy?’ by Liz McDaid (SAFCEI) and `The Environment is the real Economy!’ by Patrick Dowling of WESSA. Facilitating a process where the participants identified the issues in their areas helped to tie the theory with relevant experiences. The discussions that followed about the causes behind the problems and the issues were an important aspect. Going a step further the participants were asked to consider the values and spiritual beliefs behind environmental issues.
Feedback from the organisers was that it was a good foundational exercise – but perhaps the youthful participants could have been more challenged regarding consumerism and its impact on spiritual values and the web of life.
The final challenge was `Youth as Earth Keepers – What legacy would you like to leave?’ What do you bring as the youth to creation care? What are your visions for an ideal society? Their answers inspire confidence and hope, for example:
The youth are unique because we:
– solve problems creatively!
– have access and the ability to use communication technology.
– are united in our cultural diversity.
– are a global community movement.
– are active at a time when governments are being shaken by calls for accountability and transparency and we are adding our voices!
– are educated about the effects of Climate Change.
Go SAFCEI youth. You are the future!