Wendy Jasson da Costa
We are rapidly destroying our life-support systems. Congregations must recognise that caring for the environment is an integral part of our responsibility, just as we care for the well- being of people.
That’s the word from Bishop Geoff Davies, who heads the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute. Although retired, after spending 17 years in Kokstad as bishop of the diocese of Umzimvubu, Davies has been at the forefront of mobilising religious leaders to help save the planet. Davies and other religious leaders organised the “We have Faith – Act Now for Climate Justice” campaign, which kicked off with a rally in Durban yesterday.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu made a powerful plea at the same gathering for rich and poor nations to work together on climate change. He said no one nation could fight this enemy on its own.
Davies said it was the responsibility of religious leaders to care because: “Climate change is the greatest threat to ever confront our humanity.”
The Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute, a coalition of religious leaders from across faith communities, was only formed this year, but the Climate Justice rally held yesterday has been on the agenda for a year. Davies said the situation was urgent, as this is the 17th Conference of the Parties, and for 16 years governments around the world have not been able to reach an agreement on how “we should save life as we know it”, which is why religious leaders are urging the governments of the world to do something about it.
“We are calling for a paradigm shift in the way we treat each other and the planet… that means putting people and planet before profit,” Davies said.
He said up till now economics has dominated the discussions on climate change. Having all the money in the world did not help if the Earth was fast becoming a dead planet: “We have already exceeded the ecological balance of the planet.” He said this was evident from the growing number of “dead zones” on the planet, such as parts of the ocean in the Gulf of Mexico which contained no life, while the Amazon Jungle and the Congo Basin were also suffering.
Davies said the coalition was developing a programme called “Eco Congregation”, with the aim of getting all faiths to recognise their responsibility to care for God’s creations, to defend and protect it and to recognise that their lives were dependent on it.