SAFCEI visited one of our longstanding FLEAT members in Kimberley today and helped him to broaden his network of Earthkeepers in diverse churches in his area.
Anglican Father Thomas Mhuriro has been a member of FLEAT South Africa since 2012. Today he told 25 faith leaders from the Kimberley – Kuruman district of the Northern Cape that he did not always understand the importance of earth keeping as part of his faith. It was only when he joined Safcei’s FLEAT (Faith Leader Environmental Advocacy Training) that he started to see the world through different eyes, and realised how important the planet is as part of God’s creation.
Reverend Mhuriro is a Canon, Rector and Diocesan Director of Ordinands in the Diocese of Kimberley and Kuruman.
He was hosting a workshop on eco-justice and Earthkeeping, which he and his team arranged on behalf of Safcei.
The workshop, facilitated by Safcei’s Faith Leader Liaison Rev Berry Behr and Climate and Energy Justice Coordinator Khulekani Magwaza, included a full briefing from Khulekani on the current nuclear situation in South Africa and how energy justice and a just transition are fully achievable through renewable energy – the gifts of sun and wind which are so abundantly available in South Africa.
Apart from their intermittent access to energy – sometimes as a result of load shedding and sometimes as a result of infrastructure theft – faith leaders also spoke about the habitat and biodiversity changes they had observed in the Kimberley area in the past 40 years. Many who were born in the area spoke about the climate being hotter and colder, more unpredictable, rain at odd times and more rain than ever before, recently to the point of destructive floods. The climate change issues are exacerbated by poor infrastructure management, and the environment is being further compromised through a dysfunctional sewage plant that has created an artificial wetland which is undermining a major access road.
Waste was also a major headache, and while most faith leaders expressed the opinion that there is no recycling facility in Kimberley, one minister was able to share the information that there is indeed one. Notwithstanding this facility, burning rubbish without sorting it especially in townships is a major health and safety hazard as it often takes place near electricity wires, and the chemical component of the smoke is damaging to the health of people in the area.
The faith leaders were generally surprised on doing an eco-footprinting exercise to note the unexpectedly heavy impact that humans have on the planet. They discussed the personal changes they need to make, and many committed to food gardens and collecting rain water for use in the dryer seasons.
When we walked around St Cyprian’s Cathedral, Father Thomas showed us the compost heaps and areas that used to be productive food gardens, but theft of all his vegetables had made him lose heart and after he left the Cathedral two years ago, the gardens had become overgrown. The faith leaders said the exercise made them look with new eyes at their own churches, and they would go home determined to make changes for the better, for the earth.
After lunch, the group thought together about changes they would like to see within five years, splitting into four sub-groups and spending time in deep discussion and contemplation. The outcome after they returned to plenary was a unanimous decision to stay connected to each other, to forge their path in their own area without waiting for Safcei to lead, and to take critical action relevant to their area. Rev Mathe urged everyone to become active in their local wards, saying that if they wanted policies to change then faith leaders had to be in the conversation. He also urged the faith leaders to allow politicians into their churches to speak during election time. This would empower the community to hold politicians morally, ethically and spiritually accountable for what they did once elected.
The group ended the day with a prayer of thanksgiving, and agreement about how to stay connected to each other and making various commitments about how the message of Earth care could and would be broadcast throughout their extended networks.
Rev Berry Behr