Safer and Healthier Places of Worship

  • Published:

On Thursday 3 March SAFCEI achieved a world first.

Together with our partners at City of Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management and the SAPS Explosives Unit, we have taken public-private partnership and collaboration to a new level with the launch of our Safer and Healthier Places of Worship project. This is a pro-active risk reduction, resilience building course aimed at equipping faith leaders and their congregations with the skills, resources and knowledge base to take them beyond a world of violence, uncertainty, climate change and vulnerability. We understand that this is the first time in the world that a City agency and an NGO together with an interfaith community have created such a course. It adds the UN Sustainable Development Goals 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) and 17 (Partnerships) to Safcei’s growing collection of environmentally based successes.

The project selected 14 participants, who applied to join the course covering Emergency Coordination, Incident Awareness, First Aid and Eco-efficiency.

The Disaster Risk Management Team first conceived the idea of training faith leaders in risk management and reduction, to create safer places of worship, more than two years ago when he became aware that the global trend for extremists to target unsuspecting worshipers was on the increase, and was likely to reach Cape Town in due course. The interfaith community of the Cape Flats embraced the idea, but the arrival of Covid19 forced the project into hibernation.

Meanwhile, DRM and their colleagues at SAPS maintained contact with the interfaith communities of Cape Town and also nurtured a relationship with SAFCEI. Safcei is dedicated to supporting faith communities towards resilience, climate change preparedness and a restored relationship with the environment. For this reason SAFCEI warmly welcomed the project, adding our own contribution of eco footprinting to the programme. This means that participating places of worship will also be supported to build resilience through food gardens and better water, waste and energy management.

Rev Berry Behr, Faith Leader Liaison for Safcei, said: “As we work through this course, faith leaders will start to see their places of worship through new eyes. The project will not only make our churches, mosques and temples safer for their communities, but also encourage a point of pride in how we care for the earth, and how we care for our general environment. We look forward to seeing a restored relationship between faith communities and the land.”

DRM is mandated through the Disaster Management Act (Act 57 or 2002) to work towards risk reduction and risk assessments amongst other key performance areas. It couples with the strategic intent of the City of Cape Town to increase Cape Town’s capacity as a safe city through a coordinated multi-level approach.

Guru Krishna of the Hindu community and leader of the Siva Aalam Temple in Rylands, said during the course of the first day that already he could see benefit in the training. “I want to share this with our broader community so that leaders of other Temples can come and receive this important information,” he said.

Other delegates on this pilot course include Rev Ncumisa Mphalala, secretary of the SA Religious Forum (FLEAT Cape Town), Rev Joy Chetty (FLEAT Cape Town) who is Western Cape Chair for The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa as well as representatives of mosques and churches across the Cape Flats and the West Coast.

This first ever programme is expected to be repeated so if you are a Faith Leader in the Western Cape and would like to attend the next course, please contact to get your name on the waiting list. Other provinces will also receive the opportunity later in the year.

Rev Berry Behr