Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Notes from the SAFCEI conference


Over fifty members of SAFCEI gathered at St Peter’s Place in Johannesburg at the beginning of April to hear theologians from different faith traditions and an array of experts on economics, the environment and climate change.

Among the theologians providing input were Professors Tinyiko Maluleke, Ernst Conradie and Klaus Nürnberger. Energy Consultant Eric Mair, Dr Anthony Turton of the CSIR and Peter Lukey of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, along with other contributors provided the hard scientific facts and projected outcomes of our present wasteful consumption of resources.

A theme that ran through most of the presentations was the disproportionate effect that the current situation had on the poor and marginalised in South Africa. Despite the heavy burden of responsibility placed on members of faith communities, and the gloomy predictions about the future, the conference members were, never the less, optimistic. It was felt that, by the concerted, effective mobilisation of civil society, working together with the scientific community and relevant government agencies, it was still possible to make a significant difference.

In his keynote address, Professor Ernst Conradie of the University of the Western Cape, highlighted South Africa’s high per-capita carbon emissions, rampant consumerism, the vulnerability of the marginalised and desertification. He also offered some effective guidelines for faith communities to get their message across more effectively.

Delegates affirmed that the need to consciously stress the spiritual dimensions of the environmental problem and solutions. Care of the created order was primarily a moral issue. Neither science nor faith, on their own, could provide all the answers that were needed.

Director sums it all up

Bishop Geoff Davies, Executive Director of SAFCEI, in his concluding remarks, noted that the conference had succeeded in providing input from highly qualified and concerned individuals from the scientific, religious and civil society communities.
“The care of creation” he said, “is central to our calling. There is an urgent need for the development of poverty alleviation and job creation programmes. We want to be able to achieve sustainable growth, provided the environment is not further destroyed.

“We have more in common than that which divides us” he continued. In thanking the outgoing Management Committee, he referred to them as an excellent example of people of different faiths and cultures who are working together harmoniously for the
welfare of this “broken and fractured world.”

Bishop Davies also paid tribute to all those others who had worked so effectively to get the organisation off the ground and into the public sphere. However, he continued, there was a lot of work needed to raise SAFCEI’s profile at local, regional and national levels in both the various faith communities and civil society.
He endorsed what several speakers had said, that the leaders of faith communities need to be involved in the organisation. During the Annual General Meeting, Bishop Davies was mandated to make personal contact with as many faith leaders as possible.
He welcomed the undertaking made by Valli Moosa to facilitate a meeting of the Board of Management with members of the Board of Eskom, and stressed the point made by several speakers that government needs to listen to the message of both the scientific and civil society sectors.

In concluding, he had a special word of gratitude for SAFCEI’s Office Secretary, Di Mellon, for all the administrative work she had put in.

He felt that SAFCEI, which was a movement for ecological sustainability, social justice and spiritual renewal, had been challenged by the presentations and comments of the speakers and delegates. The message now needed to be taken to regional
and local faith communities.

New SAFCEI Management Committee for 2008

  • Bishop Geoff Davies (Exec Director, Anglican)
  • Ms Tahirih Matthee (Chairperson, Baha’i)
  • Mr Shaun Cozett (Vice-Chair, Anglican, DWAF)
  • Mr Peter Just (Buddhist)
  • Mr John Clark (Roman Catholic)
  • Rev Tim Gray (Jo’burg Anglican Diocese)
  • Ms Grace Makhudu (Anglican, Ceasefire Campaign)
  • Dr Dorie Moodley (Hindu Maha Saba)
  • Rev Andrew Warmback (Anglican, Diocese of Natal Environment Committee)
  • Dr Mohamed Karodia (Council of Muslim Theologians)
  • Prof Ernst Conradie (Uniting Reformed, UWC)
  • Ms Kate Davies (EEASA, Anglican)
  • Archbishop Seraphim Kykkotis (Orthodox Church)
  • Rev Pierre Naude (Methodist Church)
  • Rev Rully Notshe (UPCSA)
  • Rev Craig Morrison (UCCSA)
  • Rev Sue Brittion (Anglican, WCRP)
  • Sheikh Mohammed Gallant (Muslim Judicial Council)
  • Ms Jennifer Stern (Quakers)
  • Ms Gloria Khotlo (Traditional Faith Healer)
  • Prof Stephen Finn (Jewish Board of Deputies)

This is an extract from the SAFCEI newsbrief. For the full version, and conference papers, see the main SAFCEI web site.

1 comment:

Rory Short said...

I was blessed to be able to attend the SAFCEI AGM and Conference as a Quaker representative.

It was lovely to be part of a gathering of spiritually awake individuals who are profoundly concerned about the havoc that humankind is collectively wreaking upon its only nest, our planet the earth.

People were not only concerned but determined to do whatever they can to change things, starting with themselves but also involving the wider community. Such wider involvement is essential because the individual environmental problems that are becoming more and more prominent are but symptoms of a fundamental problem of Western culture, which is now becoming the world's culture, and that is its exploitative rather than cooperative relationship with the natural world.

I think that if we want to save ourselves and consequently the rest of life on earth we have to realise that we are part of nature, not separated from it and its lords and masters to boot. Realisingt is inthat in the best interests of all of nature, and that includes ourselves, that everything that we undertake should only be done in a spirit of complete cooperation with nature.

I think too that people of all faiths have a central role to play in helping humankind to learn to live in this cooperative way with the rest of creation.

Speaking from my own Quaker tradition, Quakers are constantly reminded that our lives can only reach fulfillment in as much as we strive to conduct them under the guidance of the Spirit which permeates all of creation.

This might seem authoritarian but it is not at all In our experience both individually and collectively what the Spirit points us towards doing is always in the highest interests of every one concerned.

So we strive at all times to practice non-ego driven behaviour as far as our fellows are concerned now all that is necessary is to expand our intention to practice non-ego driven behavoiur to also include our relationships with the rest of creation, i.e. nature.

Related Posts with Thumbnails