SAFCEI South African Faith Communities Institute Newsletter

September 2012

SAFCEI South African Faith Communities Institutue
Newsletter September 2012

Green Bishop - "The SADC We Want"

In memoriam
By Bishop Geoff Davies

THE MARIKANA TRAGEDY shows the urgent need to establish justice and equity. 

This is an edited version of the presentation given at the eighth SADC Southern African Civil Society Forum held recently in Maputo.

The SADC We Want is one where people live in just, democratic societies which promote and uphold the freedom needed for all people to take responsibility to care for their lives, their communities and their natural environment in order to establish a sustainable future.

As a priority we humans must recognise that we are integrally connected and part of the planet and its life support systems. If we are to overcome the extremes of poverty, unemployment and inequality presently prevailing, not only in the SADC countries but world-wide, then the rights and care of people and planet must be held to be of even greater than importance to the rights of capital and the priority of economic growth.

Inspiration for faith communities

SAFCEI Launch July 2005THIS NEWSLETTER EDITION is dedicated to Prof. Wangari Maathai who passed away a year ago, on the 25th September 2011. She was a beloved environmental and political activist and founded the Green Belt Movement in Kenya.The Green Belt Movement organizes women in rural Kenya to plant trees, combat deforestation, restore their main source of fuel for cooking, generate income, and stop soil erosion. 

Maathai was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2005 she launched SAFCEI by planting a tree.

By Kate Davies
Photo by Nuttakit /

SEPTEMBER MARKS the dawn of Spring and another season of New life. This is Arbor week, a time to honour and celebrate trees. Apart from providing Earth’s creatures with safety, shelter and shade, trees are a source of food, fuel, medicine, timber and countless other resources. They cleanse the air of carbon dioxide, feed the soil with nourishing leaf litter and bind and protect the earth from erosion. 

But trees are much more than a physical resource. Through their seeds, trees have intergenerational memory because they carry in their genes the history of their evolutionary past and promise and hope for the future.  They are a source of spiritual inspiration. Tree metaphors are often associated with a person’s life.  They are omnipresent in all of the great religious texts, rooted in the Earth with their branches reaching up to the Heavens.

“A good word is as a good tree; its root set firm and its branches in heaven, giving its fruit at every season by the leave of its Lord” (Qur’ân XIV: 24-5)

In Judaic and Christian traditions, we often read of the fig, the cedar and the oak. And then there is the ancient olive, providing fruit and oil in the dry land and symbolising peace and wellbeing. In the book of Genesis the dove returns to Noah with an olive leaf in its beak, bringing the message to Noah that the flood waters had receded.  

Speaking of olive trees, SAFCEI pays special tribute to this month’s Eco-Champion, Dot Sanders

Eco-Champion Dot Saunders
By Kate Davies

Season of Creation 1IN SEPTEMBER 2007, the liturgical resource, a Season of Creation, was launched at a moving service in St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town.  At that service, each member of the congregation was given an envelope with a postcard depicting an icon of Mary, holding Earth as she would have held her precious Christ child. The envelope also contained a single wild olive seed. 

Dot Saunders with olive treeDot lives in KwaZulu-Natal and was not present at the service but she was given a seed by the Rector of her Parish, the Revd. Andrew Warmback.  She planted and nurtured the seed - and in her own words, “All that grows seems to flourish in my care.” The wild olive is now deeply rooted in the garden of St John the Baptist Church in Pinetown. It symbolises many things in that Eco-congregation, not least of which is Dot’s deep commitment to doing good work in small ways for the glory of God.

Read a special interview with Dot Saunders.

10 Tips for a sustainable Rosh Hashanah

Citrus candleTHE HOLIDAY OF ROSH HASHANAH is the perfect time to open up to new possibilities and be grateful for everything you have. It’s a time to let the blasts of the shofar shake you awake to the world around you. And more than anything, Rosh Hashanah offers the opportunity for tshuva (returning/repentance) – to return to our best, most full versions of ourselves. As we turn inward, we have the chance to ask, “what impact do our actions have on our friends and family, our communities, and on the earth?”

In celebration of this time of turning and returning, we have compiled a list of healthy, sustainable ideas that will help you welcome Rosh Hashanah with mindfulness, sustainability, and joy. Read on!

This article was adapted to the Southern African context by Sarah Dekker, using resources written by Hazon

ReNew - Grow in Faith. Have Fun. Change the WorldReNew Holiday Club blog for Christ Church Constantia

BENSON ARENDSE, children & youth pastor & ReNew Holiday Club Team Leader at Christ Church Constantia now maintains a special blog to keep people informed of their Holiday Club activities. It's called Growing our World

"Across the church, the call to care for creation has been growing. While some churches have started green teams, planted community gardens, and have led community efforts to go green, others are struggling to know where to begin.

And that’s where ReNew comes in: ReNew is an environmentally-focused Holiday Club program that inspires young people and adults to grow in faith, have fun, and change the world as they practice stewardship of creation!"

By Ameen Benjamin

Ramadaan Reflection
Month-long Dedication,
Sensual Abstention,
Sacred Recitation,
Intensive Glorification,
Deep Meditation,
Inner Purification,
Spiritual Gratification,
And Greater Appreciation,
For all of God’s Creation.


How to... 

How to make an owl breeder boxTREES ARE IMPORTANT HABITATS for animals. The 1st October is World Habitat Day and the 4th is World Animal Day. So the following 'How to' seemed quite appropriate!

This month learn how to build your own owl box

Owls, particularly the Spotted Eagle Owls and to a lesser extent the Barn Owls, are surprisingly common in built up areas. Their abundance is due to their adaptability and the fact that they feed on a wide range of prey.

To attract owls to your garden, you don't need to introduce food, as it should already be there. What you need to do is provide accommodation! You can do this in the form of an owl-breeding box.

Courtesy of WESSA & USAID

How does your congregation use energy & water?
Energy Audit Great Commission KhayelitshaBy Liz McDaid

SAFCEI’s ENERGY100 PROGRAMME continues to reach into our faith communities, challenging them to understand their energy usage and look for alternative ways to use energy that would tread more lightly on the planet.

Pastor Aron’s Great Commission congregation in Khayelitsha took a few hours last week to investigate the ways they use energy and water.  Participants climbed on the furniture to read the power rating of the light bulbs and emptied out toilet cisterns to measure the amount of water they flush down the loo.

The next step will be to finalise the figures into a formal audit and based on the results, the congregation will then consider their next steps.


Determined to make a difference!
By Lydia Mogano

A determined group!IT WAS FREEZING on Saturday the 18th of August 2012, yet eco-congregation champions from St. Laurence, Christ the King, St. Andrews, St. Peters, St. Augustine, and Holy Cross congregations in Pretoria were still determined to meet because of their interest and passion for caring for creation.

All twelve of them met with me, Lydia (SAFCEI Regional Coordinator), at St. Laurence Anglican Church in Soshanguve in partnership with Salome from Mabopane, Pretoria. We revisited various issues around SAFCEI and eco-congregations. Why should people of faith be concerned and how can they contribute toward making a difference in their communities?

The intention was to equip them for sharing this knowledge within their own congregations for their effectiveness in caring and taking action towards earth keeping. Tree planting and recycling initiatives are underway in some congregations and they are enthusiastic about inspiring other congregations to take on their responsibility to care for creation. “I am very passionate about environmental issues and I believe we can make a difference one step at a time,” one of the eco-congregations champions said.

I was very impressed at their eagerness and desire to serve and I look forward to working together with them on their current and future projects!

40 Mosques in 20 Days
By Ameen Benjamin

Mosque w Table Mountain backdropTHE MONTH OF RAMADAN generally witnesses the spirits of Muslims to be much higher and that there is a greater inclination towards doing good. As SAFCEI’s Regional Coordinator I thought that this would be an ideal period to bring attention to the important responsibility of Muslim’s to care, protect and preserve nature as embedded in Quranic and Prophetic teachings.

My Ramadan mission was to visit 40 mosques in Cape Town to introduce SAFCEI and to contextualize the religious importance of Earth-caring. I didn't have any expectations of my visits, other than at least making contact with the Imam or mosque committee members for future correspondence. My highest hope was to witness the mosque registering as an eco-congregation or volunteering to become a pilot congregation for SAFCEI’s energy project.  Read more about Ameen's Ramadan Mission

Youth believe in sustainability!
By Kate Davies


ToGetThere“WE ARE COMING TO INTERACT with young people, to talk with them about climate change, to exchange experiences and to learn from each other” said a group of passionate young Dutch “Change makers” who visited SAFCEI at the beginning of August. They attended a Sunday service at Holy Cross Church in Nyanga and took time to talk to some young people in the congregation.

Later in the week they helped out with an environmental audit at a church centre in Khayelitsha, an informal settlement on the outskirts of Cape Town. Their trip culminated with a visit to Goedgedacht, near Riebeek Kasteel, where they learnt about the Pathway out of Poverty Programme, heard community stories and saw examples climate change impacts and responses in a rural southern African context. 
The “Togetthere” group came to meet people and to hear from them and share ideas about environmental sustainability.  Their trip was organised as part of the ICCO & Kerk in Actie international youth programme which engages young people in an exciting traineeship. Participants are guided in becoming ‘change makers’ and are encouraged to make their own church sustainable and climate neutral and to diminish the ecological footprint of individual church community members.  The SAFCEI Eco-congregation programme sees this exciting young change-makers programme as a potential model for action in our own local communities.

Other environmental news

JUST energy INDABA -  The Justice and Peace Department of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference and SAFCEI Invite all Faith leaders to an Indaba on a JUST energy future
on the 27th September 2012
Venue Koinonia, 53 First Street, Judith’s Paarl, Johannesburg
Time 08H30-16H00

Olive treeOLIVE PEACE GROVE - By donating an olive tree in the Goedgedacht Olive Peace Grove you will be helping a rural child onto a path out of poverty.You are invited to dedicate this olive tree to a family relation or great friend. Many donors have found this a very meaningful way of honouring someone on a special occasion such as a birthday, a wedding anniversary or an outstanding achievement.

If you choose to dedicate it to a loved one who has died, your tree will grow as a living memory to him or her, and its fruits will continue to be a source of life for others.

Ban Fracking! South Africa not for s(h)ale!GLOBAL ANTI-FRACKING DAY  - Send a message to our government on Global Anti-Fracking day, September 22nd 2012, by joining other South Africans who are opposed to fracking, when they CALL FOR A PERMANENT BAN ON FRACKING in South Africa.

In Cape Town, we will meet in front of the gates of Parliament, corner of Plein Street and Roeland Street at 10h30. Bring your anti-fracking banners and posters!!
The event is open to everyone and supported by several organisations, including Earthlife Africa, SAFCEI
, SCLC, Climate Justice Campaign, TKAG and others.

VIDEO - Wangari Maathai & the Green Belt Movement. This short video is about the Green Belt Movement which Wangari Maathai founded in the 1970s. It organizes rural women in Kenya to plant trees, an effort that combats deforestation while generating income for the community and promoting empowerment for women.

Since Maathai founded the Movement, over 40 million trees have been planted and over 30,000 women have been trained in forestry, food processing, beekeeping, and other sustainable, income-generating activities. 

Chose life!RESOURCE - A Rocha’s Environment Resource Pack on The Life of Trees and the Tree of Life is a toolkit for Time for Creation, celebrated by churches throughout the world from 1 September – 4 October. The Orthodox church year starts on 1 September (with a commemoration of how God created the world) and on 4 October, Roman Catholics and some other churches from the Western traditions commemorate Francis of Assisi. If you prefer, a host of materials on a sustainable energy theme can be downloaded from the World Council of Churches website.

By Liz McDaid

Photo by Renewable Energy magazineThis month's questions:

  • What impact does renewable energy have on our land use? 
  • If we put solar or wind power stations up on land, can we use the land for anything else or is it alienated forever?

Answer to August's Questions:

Why is energy a women’s issue?
The costs of staying with non-renewable energy is often not calculated directly, and these external costs are borne directly by households, with the burden falling mostly on women.
In South Africa, women bear the burden of fetching wood to burn for heating water for cooking and washing.  Standing over wood or paraffin stoves results in health problems due to indoor pollution smoke, not only for women but for small children who are with them.  .  It is estimated that this was responsible for 2,7% of global disease burden in 2000.  Future projected deaths for sub-Saharan Africa are 1,8 million children and 1,7 million adult women between 2000 and 2030 (Commission on Climate Change and Development 2009).

How could renewable energy benefit women’s health?
So, if we reduce our dependence on paraffin and wood, we can improve health, and reduce the impact on trees, improving the local environment and people’s well being.  Such cost savings can be measured – “Approximately 80 000 children are poisoned from accidently drinking paraffin each year and paraffin related incidents cost the economy R104 billion annually”.   Installing solar water heaters will provide hot water for much of the year for free, reducing dependence on kettles and paraffin stoves.

Can Renewable energy provide careers for women?
Renewable energy also provides job opportunities for women - women are entering the renewable energy industry – in a street lighting project in Buffalo City, one in three workers doing installations, were women, while 28 of the 85 people trained in the Kuyasa solar water heating project were women. Although lagging behind their male counterparts, there are a few renewable energy companies owned by women, and women are also active in the energy and climate change policy arena.  South Africa's Minister of International Relations and Cooperation for International Affairs, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. chaired the COP17 conference in 2011.

Special Dates

1-7 September: National Arbor Week
16 September: World Ozone Day
17&18 September: Rosh Hashanah Judaism
19 September: Fast of Gedalya Judaism
26 September: Yom Kippur Judaism
27  September: World Tourism Day
30 September: Pitr-paksha Hindu
1-2 October: Succot Judaism
1 October: World Habitat Day
4 October: World Animal Day
7 October: Hoshana Rabba Judaism
8 October: Shmini Atzeret Judaism

Do you have feedback or a story to share with other faith communities? Drop us a line!
 Newsletter Editor Sarah Dekker .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)