Religious Voices at Durban

Religious voices advocate for climate justice at Durban

 “This is the only home we have,” said Archbishop Desmond Tutu referring to the crucial significance of our planet and its survival. He was speaking in an interfaith rally in Durban, urging the United Nations conference on climate change (COP17) to deliver a fair, ambitious and binding treaty to address climate change effectively. COP17 starts today, 28 November, in Durban, South Africa.

The interfaith rally, held at the Kings Park Stadium on 27 November was the first event for faith communities in Durban, who have been preparing for COP17 since one year ago.

            “We have faith!” proclaimed Bishop Geoff Davies, director of the Southern Africa Faith Communities Environmental Institute, one of the key organizers of the rally. “Africa is a continent of faith, and we have come here together from different faith traditions to voice our moral and spiritual call for a paradigm shift. We call for climate justice now,” said Davies.

            During the rally Tutu also delivered the petition with 200,000 signatures of support titled “We have faith” to the incoming president of COP17, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, South African minister of International Relations and Cooperation, and to Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UNFCCC Secretariat.

            In support of the document Mashabane said, “Your petition will be taken seriously”, while Figueres encouraged the faith movement “not to give up faith and hope”, regardless of the results of the COP17.

            The petition had an African emphasis taken from the “Time for Climate Justice” campaign which has brought churches together for some years.

            At the interfaith rally, Brahma Kumaris, Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders expressed the common concern of caring from a religious perspective. With these messages, renowned African artists like Gcina Mhlope and Ladysmith Black Mambaso paid tribute to the late Nobel peace laureate Wangari Maathai and performed various songs.

            Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and former high commissioner for Human Rights also addressed the audience, calling for the inclusion of gender issues, agriculture, human rights and climate justice at the core of COP17 negotiations.

            Among other faith leaders, the WCC general secretary, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, conveyed greetings on behalf of the churches, and sent a strong message to Durban, saying, “It is time for climate justice”.

The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 349 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, from the [Lutheran] Church of Norway. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.