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This last Saturday 20th August 2016, SAFCEI participated in the annual Feast of the Clowns festival organised by the Tshwane Leadership Foundation (TLF) at Burgers Park, Central Pretoria.
The theme for 2016 is #WeMustRise, inspired by the #MustFall campaigns which emphasized the power of ordinary people, both young and old, on the ground to make change. The TLF community is rising in response to homelessness, refugees, children’s rights, human trafficking, HIV/AIDS and greener cities.
After the Feast of the Clowns march in town had ended, a burst of bright clown costume colours, music, singing, face painting, poetry, laughter, dancing, games, good food, and most importantly fun learning commenced.
It was a perfect Spring day outdoors and most exciting, I had the opportunity to meet a young change-maker by the name Reabetswe Mmekwa from Soshanguve who was recently crowned Pre-Miss Teen Continent via Soshanguve fm. She is the main founder of Ditsala Children Shield and Projects, a local initiative which inspires children to make a difference in their communities.
This year, one of her main objectives is to inspire her peers to learn more about the significance of sustaining a healthy living environment in their own communities. Mr Goerge Senosha (SoshaFM) said: “This is definitely not a coincidence at all that we’ve met with SAFCEI! We thank God because there is such a wonderful support that SAFCEI can offer our little princess as she walks through this Earth Keeping journey, especially from a very young age.”
Reabetswe was excited to meet me and becoming an Earth Keeper is a natural crown she will hopefully carry forever. SAFCEI will be partaking in a few tree planting events within Pretoria during Arbour Week (1st – 7th September 2016) I look forward to spreading our Earth Keepers wings in many townships and suburbs in Pretoria east and west! Give me a shout if you are interested in joining us 🙂
Lydia Mogano (firstname.lastname@example.org)
On Saturday the 16th July 2016, a team of young and passionate Earth Keepers from Pretoria East, known as the GreenYouthSA, gathered together at Moreleta Spruit to commemorate Mandela day (celebrated annually on 18th July).
Their theme this year is to inspire their peers and communities around them to “go green”, which includes being more conscious about our actions towards the environment as well as exercising more sustainable practices in everyday life.
To lead the way, these GreenYouthSA Earth Keepers collected 40 bags of plastic waste and five of them were recycled. They were certainly not scared to their hands dirty in the river! Micke said, “We are grateful of the blessings we have received from everyone in making this event possible. Today’s early morning prayer started us off on a good note, and we managed to collect litter from the river for more than 67 mins.”
Micke also emphasized that although 67 mins is a general benchmark on Mandela day, it should not limit our actions for change. “We are determined to do more with the time we have in our hands today and to create the change we would like to see and experience. A much more powerful tool is love and it is intrinsic to everyone, while hate is a learnt behaviour. If we don’t reflect and learn from the past and work together, we will miss out on the positive blessings we have to solve today’s challenges”.
Marcia also reflected on the outcome of the event: “Young people need to know how important it is to take care of our land. We need to change from being complacent about how passive we are around littering within and around our communities. This is a mind-set challenge but it can change if we understand that it is our responsibility to manage our own individual waste, and that together we are more effective!”
Their biggest dream and message to all South Africans is that taking care of the environment should be our second nature. Marcia went further to relate today’s social and environmental justice issues in the country by saying, “When Mandela was set free, he came out as peaceful person without revenge. In the same way, we need to stand together, love one another, our country and invest in your own future, a sustainable one”.
We are excited about creating a ground swell of events in September to celebrate Arbour week in Pretoria and the rest of Gauteng. Watch this space!
Shared by Lydia Mogano
“We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life moulds the environment and is itself also deeply affected by it. The one acts upon the other and every abiding change in the life of man is the result of these mutual reactions.” – Shoghi Effendi
Baha’is believes that nature is an imperative component of life – to such an extent that Baha’i scriptures describe nature as a reflection of God. We believe that it is our duty to preserve and value nature, as it is a crucial step in ensuring an ever-advancing human civilization.
We view ourselves as the trustees of the plethora of resources that our beautiful planet has to offer. Humanity is urged to utilise the Earth’s resources (whether renewable or non-renewable) in a way that is sustainable – and ensures that future generations have equal access to the same resources.
To attain a sustainable way of living necessitates that we always consider the environmental impacts and consequences of all the activities that we undertake. We need to realise the importance of humility and moderation in our actions – and cease to view nature in terms of economics and currency. Most importantly, we need to understand the importance of nature in our material and spiritual development as humanity; that sustainable development is not just an optional commitment, but one of the requirements for the physical survival of the individual and the spiritual growth of the individual.
Baha’is believe that the following changes must be made at social and institutional levels in order to foster sustainable development and the preservation of nature:
• At a governmental level, questions challenging the distribution of resources and the responsibility of environmental destruction must be posed – this will encourage governments to implement policies that take into account the health of the environment and entire communities.
• At an institutional, non-state level a global scientific counsel is needed to make more efficient decision making and reporting – paying close attention to the three fold relationship between environmental issues and social and political issues.
• At an educational level, the curriculum provided should try to establish a sense of responsibility for the environment in learners.
Every Baha’i is given the opportunity to contribute to the educational level – in the form of actively teaching the Baha’i scriptures and principles. Every Baha’i is obliged to teach the ways and beliefs of the faith and in doing so we hope to establish a strong sense of responsibility and spiritual growth through spiritual education. One of the ways this can be achieved is through a Junior Youth Empowerment Programme – a programme offered by Baha’is to individuals of all faiths between the ages of 11 – 14.
This programme aims to help youth grow at an individual and spiritual level – and become productive members of society. To help them build a better relationship with themselves, their community and God. This programme places a huge emphasis on the development of virtuous moral characteristics and behaviour – and includes an element of environmental awareness and protection.
One of the Junior Youth Groups in Durban, South Africa, ‘The Happy Peace Lovers’, recently decided to put their newfound erudition into practice – in the form of a ‘clean-up’ service project at their school (Hillview Primary School – Reservoir Hills, Durban). The junior youth showed a clear understanding of the importance of having a clean and healthy environment, and were more than gratified to undertake this activity. They wished to keep their environment in the pristine state that they left it in after their litter ‘wipe out’, and believed that their actions would encourage other learners to do the same in future. They suggested that any disregard that is observed in society for the environment could possibly be attributed to the lack of understanding between the complex, yet indispensible marriage between nature and humanity.
Although all the members of the group are not Baha’is, they often reflect on Baha’i scriptures to motivate them and encourage them in their endeavours. The scripture they reflected on before the clean up spoke about the importance of serving the community (and in this instance the environment too). The scripture states:
“God is the helper of those souls whose aim is to serve humanity and whose efforts and endeavours are devoted to the good and betterment of all mankind.”
This quote highlights the importance of service – and the proactive and loving characteristics that develop in one through serving. These characteristics transcend beyond the individual, and the community – they reach nature too. The characteristic flaws in humanity such as carelessness and greed (that contribute to environmental degradation), can ultimately be attributed to spiritual weakness. By building spiritual strength we become more proactive protectors and guardians of this precious Earth.
Well done to the Happy Peace Lovers!
With thanks to the Gaia Foundation who published Joe Miller’s beautiful poem in this format.
By Mncedisi Masuku, Diocese of Swaziland
Wednesday March 2 has been a historic day in Manzini Parish, Mathanda when members of the church decided to have a short service under a marula tree which is one of the trees that has cultural significance in the Swazi Culture.
We gathered under the tree to share a bit about Climate Change before starting our tree planting around the church. We have been using Season of Creation II for prayers and readings; Rev. W. Dlamini led us into a brief Bible study and Mncedisi Masuku talked briefly about the scientific aspect of how Climate Change is connected to deforestation and green-house gas emissions, and how tree planting benefits the eco-system balance.
Readings for the discussion were,
After the readings it was discussed how in the gospel of Matthew we see Jesus calming the storm, which shows that Jesus is above all nature. We need to go back to Christ if we are to fight and win Climate Change, as he is the solution and can teach us how to be stewards of the earth.
After the short service under the tree, we moved forward and put faith into actions. We planted 31 trees which will serve as wind breakers for the church along the surrounding fence. It was a wonderful experience. We also planted five indigenous plant species that are now at risk of extinction due to deforestation; we are saving them for future generations. We saved one fruit tree to plant at the Good Friday service.
The main purpose of the day was tree planting but the service would not be complete if we left litter around the church compounds. It was then decided to do a clean up exercise to leave the church green.
Did you know cutting down on meat can save the environment? It is not easy for most of us but cutting down on beef can go a long way in saving our deteriorating environment. We shared a very nice chicken stew and some green vegetable. It was a wonderful fellowship.
We are so grateful to the government of Swaziland for providing us with these trees from the Environmental desk. We committed ourselves in taking care of them when we made our last prayer, blessing the work of our hands. So help us Lord.
The plans for celebrating Earth Keeper Day on 14 February were announced on the previous Sunday and congregants were asked to bring a gift of the Earth (any vegetable or fruit from their garden or greengrocer) that was to be distributed later to the needy.
Many congregants heeded the call and placed their Gifts of the Earth in the sanctuary before the service. The children of Waterkloof Primary School also participated by bringing canned as well as fresh vegetables and fruit to school on the Friday. The children, as well as their parents and teachers, also joined our annual clean-up of a spruit in the vicinity of the school. So the Earth Keeper message was spread through the community.
At both services on the Sunday the Benedicite Africana (Song of Creation) was used as well as a Eucharistic prayer for the Season of Creation, which was combined with the liturgy for the First Sunday in Lent. At the second service, which was attended by the Sunday School children, the Rector demonstrated how we are polluting the Earth by emptying a dustbin down the aisle. The children had drawn posters to celebrate the day and these were on display in the church.
On Monday, two vehicles filled with vegetables and fruit went to Itereleng Centre, in Winterveldt, a cluster of settlements to the north of Pretoria. Itereleng was established as a training centre for the disabled in the former Bophuthatswana. It is still frequented by the elderly and the disabled, but the infrastructure is in a state of disrepair and it seems that training is no longer given on a permanent basis. It is not a project of Tumelong (the mission and development programme of the Anglican Diocese of Pretoria), but it does receive occasional help from them and from various other organizations in Gauteng and North West. It is also supported by the local community – several residents in the vicinity agreed to store and cook the produce donated by the church.
Bishop Geoff Davies, our Green Bishop, and Kate Davies led a service in the Kalk Bay Mountains in Cape Town on the Saturday of the Earth Keeper Day weekend. Kate Davies reflects on the experience:
How can we reclaim the inherent mystery that belongs to all of creation, while living in a throw away culture that has covered this wonder with waste? How can we return to a magical world, one that we have made toxic with our greed and desires, with our addiction to consumerism?
Could it begin with something as simple as recognizing that we are not separate from the Earth, but, breathing its air, sustained by its food, nourished by its beauty, we are part of this miracle?
Wisdom words from Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee’s ‘Shifting the climate debate onto sacred ground’, framed the thinking behind a meditative Earth Keeper Day celebration on a rocky outcrop overlooking False Bay on the Kalk Bay mountain. Using a mandala and the universal symbolism of the life-giving elements of earth, water, fire, wind and space, a shared thanksgiving service for the gifts of smell, taste, sight, touch and hearing linked a diverse group of Christians, seeking sanctuary. As silent participants, we gazed out over the bay, looking down on the Saturday morning busy-ness in the human settlements below.
Meditations by ‘geologian’, Fr Thomas Berry, drew us back to the centre and guided silent reflections on our inter-dependence and connectedness with the world around us.
The universe is a communion and a community.
We ourselves are that communion
become conscious of itself.
There is no such thing as “human community”
without the earth and the soil and
the air and the water and all living forms.
Humans are woven into this larger community.
The large community is the sacred community.
Words from Lewellen-Jones reminded us of the significance of Pope Francis’ encyclical in which he “reconnects the well-being of the Earth to the well-being of our soul, care for the Earth to care for the soul.” Pope Francis suggests that “while technology is often presented as the only solution, it proves incapable of seeing the mysterious network of relations between things and so sometimes solves one problem only to create others.”
The Pope’s words came alive to this small band of pilgrims present on the mountain that morning. “Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.”
SAFCEI staff in Tshwane celebrated Earth Keeper Day on Saturday 13 February in Burgers Park. SAFCEI’s Lydia Mogano reflects on the event.
We spent our day at Burgers Park chatting with ordinary people about our connectedness to the earth and the pragmatic value taking care of the environment.
We started off with fun ice breakers and energizers to get to know each other better. Then we migrated from superficial discussions about littering to deeper discussions about the meaning of environment (in the context of claiming space, responsibility and Ubuntu).
We expanded the topic to include waste, enjoying free basic rights such as clean water and air as well as recognizing that environmental awareness and action does not necessarily belong only to the scientists but it is knowledge and action that anyone can do anywhere.
There is a general perception that the youth are ignorant but clearly our group was not. They stressed that one of the problems they have with tackling environmental issues is because behaviour change often stimulates a negative feedback from community members, especially when their actions are unsustainable. Therefore the environmental job market is not always attractive.
Then we explored various practical behavioural adjustments we could apply at home to save water, electricity, and reduce household waste, carbon, as well as in minimizing flood and storm impacts through tree planting and redesigning landscapes to adapt.
For instance, Tsepo showed how one can save both electricity and water by using a solar geyser. I showed how we could save electricity and water (or wood/charcoal if one is unable to afford electricity) by using a wonder bag. Moreover, we learnt more about the potential potency and impact of carbon in the atmosphere through a science experiment and we talked about a great Renewable Energy potential that exists for young people to explore and innovate.
Conducting eco-audits (e.g., of water and electricity) can give congregations and households an opportunity to be aware of their consumption and then encourage further sustainable behavioural adjustments more effectively. Since our country has been experiencing heat spells and water shortages, this exercise can make big difference if everyone plays their part.
“We don’t usually pay for water in rural areas back at home, so we might not need an audit” said Ouma, one of the youths. Although the concept of conducting “audits” may usually have strong financial connotations, we should also look at it the context of our consumption patterns and more importantly, sustainable living should continue to enable free access to safe drinking water for everyone while addressing climate change.
All of these not only improve the environmental health, but also improve our own physical and psychological well-being. One of the participants endorsed this point by pointing out the value of enjoying good quality air in the Park and that it should also be enjoyed at home.
We ended off with singing local gospel songs and a prayer thanking God for the blessing we have in creation as well as His everlasting love, grace and provision.
Overall, I was surprised at how much we spoke on so casually in a few hours and was inspired to hear Daniel, one of the youths say: “At least I am not completely in the dark!” Our group enjoyed our discussions and related activities and they wanted to be involved. They wished that such initiatives could be spread further into their communities.
By: Mncedisi Masuku, Diocese of Swaziland
The Anglican youth of Hlathikhulu Parish in the Diocese of Swaziland had a Green Valentine weekend. We began the weekend on Friday 12 February with an evening song before going to bed in preparation of a busy day on Saturday.
Saturday began with a morning prayer in our church backyard vegetable garden. It was a refreshing experience to enjoy the presence of God outdoors in the beauty of nature looking on the planted vegetables.
Our first session was facilitated by Mr. M. Masuku and he talked on Climate Change and Eco-Justice. He explained how green house gases emitted by human activities have led to climate change and how it has affected world temperatures and rainfall distribution.
He then gave some effects of Climate Change in food production in Africa and how the future is projected to be if no actions are taken. This presentation was an eye opener and it provoked questions and discussions that even tried to address the role the youth and the church can play in influencing the justice system of the country especially on the subject matter. Swaziland Environment Authority (SEA) delegates were part of the discussion and gave the youth an assurance that they are ready to listen to their issues on environmental affairs.
Thereafter, SEA took the stage and made a presentation on their role as an organisation on environmental issues in the country. Areas of interest for the youth were education and project implementation. The organisation also promotes Eco-clubs in schools and as the Anglican Church has numerous schools in the country, the youth decided that their next action after the conference was to implement Eco-Clubs in Anglican Schools.
The Parish sealed its relationship with SEA by planting an Avocado tree which will be a permanent symbol and reminder for their commitment to be Earth Keepers. This tree will also be a source of shade for the church and shelter for other animals, food and plays a role in reducing the carbon footprint in the environment.
After lunch, Rev. M. Simelane gave a presentation, “The theological aspect of the Environment”. A lot was discussed but to mention a few he stated that the church or people have developed at a very fast rate such that they are far ahead of God whereas God is still in the beginning where he said it is good. If the church is to deal with environmental issues, it has to go back to the beginning where God is.
It was said that God loves nature and whenever he revealed himself it was through nature (Moses and burning bush, the dove when Christ was baptised) and even God the Son is at times described through nature (root of David, rock of ages, Lion of Judah). In discussion it was stated that God is not happy if nature is not taken care of and is a sin in His sight. It is the duty of the church to take care of nature and to question the state when it is not doing well, as much as the state has the duty to question the church.
After this presentation the youth went into town and informally were picking up litter along the streets raising awareness that Hlathikhulu should be kept clean. After town the youth did some landscaping. The youth felt the need to keep their church looking good thus they planted flowers around the church. In moving forward on their review for the conference, they stated that they need another workshop that will involve different stakeholders including government representatives.
Sunday was declared as the day of Love for Creation where the whole church was involved in the service. Swaziland is currently faced with drought which has lead to serious water shortages. The focus of the service was on water as the readings of the day, sermon and prayers focused on water. Season of Creation was used to get readings and prayers. The readings were:
Genesis21:8-19 (dependency on water)
Psalms 104:10-17 (recognition of the relationship between water and life and God as the provider)
Revelation22:1-7 (water as a metaphor for the life that flows from God)
John 4.1-15 (the spiritual meaning of water)
After the service the non-youth and Sunday school church members were given an avocado tree to plant as a way of committing themselves to journey with the youth in being Earth Keepers. The youth also planted their own avocado tree, committing themselves to the Young Green Anglicans Ministry.
St. Michaels and UNISWA Anglican Chapels held the same on Sunday and had their own trees to plant. Manzini Parish is yet to plant their own tree.
We are grateful to the Wilson Family of St. Antony’s, Anglican Youth Guild and Diocesan office for assisting the Parish with resources to run this conference and SEA for availing themselves in our conference. A special thank you to Rt. Rev. E.N Wamukoya who sponsored the trees and flowers, what a green Bishop. We are looking forward in our next workshop and activities to implement as we are a green Parish.
We are celebrating Earth Keeper Day this February. This will be a day of love for Creation, of opening our hearts and connecting spiritually with nature, and we invite everyone to celebrate the miracle that is our Earth through prayer, meditation, song, poetry, art or dance.
Earth Keeper day will be celebrated over the weekend of the 12th – 14th February 2016 and we invite you and your faith community to choose one of these days to celebrate this special occasion. You can sign up your community by clicking here and we will support you with inspiration and ideas so that you can unite in prayer with faith communities across Southern Africa.
Read more about Earth Keeper Day here
SAFCEI staff in Cape Town will be celebrating Earth Keeper Day on Muizenberg beach on Friday morning, 12th February, 8.30am-10.30 am. We will be creating a prayer Mandala together for the Earth and sharing about our work with those interested. You are welcome to bring some breakfast and join us. For more information e-mail email@example.com