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Baha'i Scripture & the Environment

Bahai article pic“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!

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Manzini Parish continues on their journey of Earth Keeping

By Mncedisi Masuku, Diocese of Swaziland

IMG_20160302_114358Wednesday 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,

Isaiah 24:1-6

Psalms 98:1-9

Matthew 8:23-27

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.

IMG_20160302_122240After 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.IMG_20160302_130632

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.

 

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Celebrate Earth Keeper Day

Click here to sign up

EAK-logo-rgbWe 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 info@safcei.org.za

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Return to your roots - sponsor a tree

Sponsor a tree

Greenpop has recently launched an annual holiday tree fundraiser which gives people the opportunity to sponsor one tree (or more) online in the name of a loved one and get a personalised certificate with the GPS co-ordinates of their tree(s). The trees that are sponsored through this campaign will be planted in our reforestation projects so this is truly a gift that keeps on giving!

Skip the crowded malls, get back to basics, and celebrate your loved ones with the gift of trees!

Greenpop will plant them on your behalf in Africa’s southernmost indigenous forest (the Platbos Forest, Overburg Region) and you will immediately receive a personalised e-card which you can forward on to your gift recipient.

You can find all of the information about the campaign here: https://www.quicket.co.za/events/13328-sponsor-a-holiday-tree/?#/

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Spiritual Spring Campaign

spiritual spring campaignSpring is on our doorstep and I invite you to join me on a Spiritual Spring campaign. We all look forward to the change of seasons at the end of Winter but what appreciation do we show God for this? This season, I challenge you to make a personal pledge to do something positive for the environment. Your pledge can come in various forms or sizes. Maybe your next purchase of light bulbs will be low energy or you’ll fix those dripping taps and keep an eye on your electricity consumption. Commit to your household recycling or take part in a local park and street clean-ups. Plant a tree or a bush in your garden. You can pray and think about what your pledge will be but whatever you decide, do your utmost to stick to it. Your pledge must not be for financial savings or a clearer conscience, it must not even be directly for the environment. Your pledge is to show your love for God and to show Him how much you appreciate this wonderful gift from Him, the gift of the Earth.

This is republished from the North Rand Methodist Church’s newsletter, written by John Roussouw

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Another clean-up campaign in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe clean-up 2After this last Sunday’s service, the Greek Orthodox youth once again took to the surrounding area for their second clean-up campaign.This is the report we received:

On Sunday 7th of June 2015 after the divine liturgy, we gathered the youth so as to address them about the Global Week of Action.

Firstly we informed them about what is climate change and its impact on our lives and its threat to our lives.They participated through answering some questions we asked them.

After that  lecture, we distributed gloves, masks and bin liners and started our clean up campaign. We cleaned the church yard  and in the trenches. We rounded the neighbourhood along Masothandlovu road and returned to churchZimbabwe clean-up

It was a very successful campaign since everyone participated and showed interest in the activity.

However we only cleaned at Saint Nectarios Church, but the future plan is to go to Warren Park, Snake Park and Marondera.

 

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Zimbabwe Clean-Up Campaign!

By Angelic Molen, Greek Orthodox Church Zimbabwe

Harare Clean Up

I would like to share with you how we, as people of faith at the Greek Orthodox Church in Zimbabwe, are working towards caring for the environment.

We as Greek Orthodox youth, in partnership with an organisation called “Youth Clean up Green up”, organised a clean-up campaign at Greencroft shopping centre in Harare on Saturday 28th of March 2015. This felt like a successful campaign since while we cleaned, we managed to inform the people about the issue of recycling plastics, paper and cans. Also we told the people about the importance of organic waste because there were a lot of dumped vegetables lying around the market place.

Besides the above, we were distributing posters and bin liners to the people for home use. Among the posters were the ones about Veld fires which is a topic we are planning to cover at a workshop equipping the faithfuls with knowledge on the effects of veld fires. This is critical in our context as we are in the season where the grass is dry. Look out for another story about our workshop!  I believe that one step at a time we will reach our destination.

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St Marks celebrate Earth Keeper Day

2015 Earth Keeper DayOn 15 February 2015, St Mark’s Presbyterian Church in Môregloed, Pretoria celebrated Valentine’s day as a day to care for the Earth.

Our theme for Earth Keeper Day was “The Gift of Land and its Management” with the emphasis on God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants, and the promise of land conditional upon responsible behaviour, justice and equity.  The clear link between personal salvation and redemption of the earth as a whole was highlighted with reference to Romans 8:19-21.  Children, teenagers, parents, grandparents and great grandparents pasted leaves for healing on an image of the “Tree of Life”.  The heart-shaped leaves carried written commitments for action to bring healing, well-being and sustainability to the earth.

Some of the commitments included:2015 Earth Keeper Day 2

  • Saving water and electricity
  • Walking or cycling instead of driving
  • Shopping less and using home-made or local goods
  • Water-wise gardening & home-grown fruit & vegetables
  • Rain-water harvesting
  • Avoiding pesticides & products with harmful chemicals
  • Recycling, re-using, composting: not wasting anything
  • Having love, mercy & compassion
  • Sharing with others, eg lift clubs.

The congregation is now planning a multi-generational clean-up of green spaces, especially along streams and stormwater channels in the area, the day after international River Action Day on 14 March 2015.

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United Methodist Church plants trees in Zimbabwe

Rebecca Gurupira motivating the conference

Rebecca Gurupira motivating the conference

Story from Tendai Rebecca Gurupira, United Methodist Church Coordinator, Ministry with Women, Children and Youth in Zimbabwe.

In 2014 I attended a Faith Leaders Environmental Advocacy Training (FLEAT) with SAFCEI. I learned a lot about being God’s stewards, and that we must continue to care for God’s creation.

After the training I sourced more than 1500 seedling trees from Nyaradzo Funeral Company. The company is helping our country by promoting tree planting. This company also raises awareness on issues of climate change.

On 13 December 2014 more than 500 seedling trees were planted by the resident Bishop E.K Nhiwatiwa and his cabinet, their spouses and all church leaders at Murewa Mission of The United Methodist Church. I spoke about climate change to more than 500 pastors and delegates. All pastors and delegates present at the conference were given trees to take home and plant in their communities. The same was also done at Old Mutare Mission on 20 December 2014 were more than 500 trees were given to pastors and delegates.

I am inspired to continue with this effort in 2015. Let’s continue to be good Earth Keepers!!

Rebecca Gurupira with tree seedling

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