Bonus Ndlovu joined the SAFCEI team in March this year. He relocated from Cape Town to Pretoria so that he could take on the role of the Eco-congregations Co-ordinator in the North, which was previously held by Glynis Goyns. The Earth Keeper newsletter caught up with him for an interview to talk about his work and his experiences thus far.
The experience which I bring to SAFCEI is my theological background. I have studied Theology and Philosophy at St Joseph’s Theological Institute (KZN) as well as at St Augustine College of South Africa, a Catholic University in Johannesburg. I have lectured at a Catholic Bible College in Theology, Catholic Liturgy as well as in Sacred Scripture, namely the prophets and the New Testament.
My theological background is mainly from the Catholic Tradition but this together with others within SAFCEI who have studied Theology, brings a good mix to SAFCEI, I think.
What does your role as Eco-congregations Co-ordinator entail?
My role as Eco-congregations Co-ordinator (North) entails mobilizing the people of faith in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo as well as in some African countries to make their places of worship centres of excellence in terms of their stewardship and taking care of God’s creation – which Pope Francis calls our ‘common home’. This involves helping them come up with ideas on how to pray in places of nature, how to use natural resources in a sustainable way and setting a good example to the rest of humanity to follow.
What do you think you personally bring to this role?
Eish, personality is a very complex phenomenon. We never know ourselves as well as others around us do. However from the little observation that I have done so far since my journey with SAFCEI, I think I am comfortable to engage with ministers from different faith formations and denominations. I am very comfortable around different kinds of people and different personalities because of my exposure to people from different cultural backgrounds, so this works well for me.
I am a big dreamer so this helps in this job because we have to keep on dreaming and have faith that our dreams will one day come through. Or we stop living, because when we stop dreaming we are dead!
You are a Roman Catholic – what role does this play in your work and in what ways does this influence you as a person?
Yes I am Roman Catholic, although since I joined SAFCEI, I have spent more Sundays outside of the Catholic Church because of the nature of the work that I do. I however do not see that as a threat as I am well grounded in my own faith. It is good to be Catholic in SAFCEI because as an organisation we are from different faith traditions and we all complement each other and respect how we do things.
At the moment I am particularly thrilled by the voice of Pope Francis on the issues of the environment. This has been a build up from Pope St John Paul II, and Pope Emeritus Benedict. This has now reached its culmination in the Papal Encyclical of Pope Francis which has received worldwide attention more than any other encyclical from the previous Popes. As a Catholic I feel happy that we are adding our voice to the many voices of other prominent religious leaders around the world even here at home.
My faith influences me because it shapes the person who I am as well as on how I interact with other people. Of course I am not perfect so my faith gives me the tools to work on this. I think it is difficult to engage on issues of the environment, or any issues for that matter, from the religious perspective if you are not rooted in a faith. Because from the table of the work and the Eucharist we are nourished as it were and then like the disciples are sent out to go and do the work that we do.
What is your connection to the environment?
I am a township boy, born and raised in the dusty streets of Bulawayo. As a young man growing up, I was exposed to different contextual situations from the places I visited to the places where I did my academic education. I have been exposed to the rural life of South Africa as well as Zimbabwe. I am particularly fascinated by the land issues and the way people are connected to their land. I particularly enjoyed a research I did on Land and Landlessness in Zimbabwe and a Theological Critique I gave. I have lived in Cape Town for several years and for me to have relocated from that beauty to Pretoria can only be attributed to the love of SAFCEI.
What are your aims and aspirations for your further work at SAFCEI?
I would like to see myself grow within SAFCEI, in my faith as well as in my academic Theological pursuits because that is what feeds into the work that I do. If my faith is weak people of faith will be able to tell that one is not driven by faith and it will be difficult to win them over.
In a nut shell, however, I totally love what I do and the freedom to do it.