SAFCEI South African Faith Communities Institute Newsletter

Newsletter October 2012

Inspiration for faith communities 

This newsletter edition is dedicated to all life in our oceans.  This month in South Africa, we celebrate National Marine Day on the 20th October and National Marine Week from 8-12 October.

The survival of marine and coastal ecosystems and biodiversity is essential to the nutritional, spiritual, societal and religious well-being of many coastal communities. But even for the many millions of people who may not think that they depend on the ocean, marine ecosystems and wildlife provide all kinds of benefits.

For instance, tiny marine plants called phytoplankton produce energy, just like plants on land, through photosynthesis. As a result of that photosynthesis, they release oxygen. In fact, phytoplankton release half of all oxygen in the atmosphere!

Without life in the ocean, there would be no life on Earth. 

"Allah Almighty has also subjected to you the sea so that, out of it, you may have fresh food and also what you use as your ornaments. You see how the ships plow through the sea carrying you forward in quest of His bounties so that your efforts may fructify. "
Surrah An-Nahl  No 16 - Verse: 14

By Kate Davies

Meet another woman of faith who is doing extraordinary things for the environment.  Betty Bala bowls you over with her passion and enthusiasm for her church and the environment.

Betty comes from Kwazakhele, an over-crowded Port Elizabeth township which experiences the daily trials of poverty, crime, unemployment and lack of facilities.  In spite of the challenges, nothing dampens her spirits. She sees every new project as a challenge and dreams of a time when environmental action becomes part of the ministry of every church in the diocese. In September Betty organized a well-attended Eco-congregation workshop at St John’s Church in Walmer. After the event I had a chance to ask her about her faith, her work and her environmental activism. 
Read on

A PRAYER FOR WATER! Without it we could not survive.

For the Jewish community, this month in October is the festival of Shemini Atzeres.On Shemini Atzeres, we make a special blessing for rain. We also begin mention in a prayer called the Amida about Hashem as the One who “makes the wind blow and the rain descend.” What does it mean for us to pray for rain? What does our praying for rain demand of us? And what role do rain and water play in our lives?

While water is an essential force for life, it can also be destructive, as the Talmud (Oral law) explains in Maseces Ta’anis. It can be nourishing, as when we drink it, bathe in it, or use it to irrigate our crops. It surrounded the world when Hashem created the earth, just as it surrounds a fetus as it grows in its mother’s womb. Plants depend on water to produce energy in photosynthesis, which is why plants spring up around water. Read on

Article adapted from by Benji Shulman.

SAFCEI visits congregations in the Eastern Cape

Kate writes from the Eco-congregation desk:  I have just returned from a wonderful visit to Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth where I had the opportunity of meeting ‘old’ and making ‘new’ eco-congregation friends.

I spoke at two services at the Anglican Cathedral of St Michael and St George in Grahamstown. The Dean, the Very Revd. Andrew Hunter, graciously arranged an open meeting for me to talk about SAFCEI’s work. Because the recent lifting of the fracking moratorium by the Department of Mineral Resources may affect the people in this region, the cathedral community made a decision to sign the ‘anti-fracking – pro-renewable’ memorandum. 

A visit to Trinity Presbyterian Eco-congregation in Grahamstown revealed unexpected surprises. They have a model indigenous water-wise garden and I stumbled across a glorious clump of Clivia blooming in a shady quiet corner.

Through Betty Bala, this month’s SAFCEI eco-champion, The Anglican Diocese of Port Elizabeth co-hosted an eco-congregation workshop at St John’s Church centre in Walmer. We had a wonderful morning sharing stories and envisioning future actions.

Youth eco-dramaWe were also entertained with an environmental drama put on by an inspiring youth group from Motherwell township, demonstrating what a powerful and inexpensive tool drama can be in communicating eco-messages.

After hearing stories and visiting congregations in the region, I had a sense that people didn’t realise quite how much they are already doing. I hope that my visit will stimulate interest and a growing cluster of flourishing eco-congregation activity in the region. Thank you to my generous hosts for your welcome and enthusiasm!

Recalling and celebrating our Green heritage 
By Lydia Mogano

To many people heritage may imply a rich history, or legacy that was and is secured for us to enjoy. In the month of September, South Africa celebrated heritage month and in our last newsletter edition we payed  special tribute to the phenomenal Kenyan environmental, political activist, and Nobel prize winner, the late Professor Wangari Muta Maathai (1 April 1940 – 25 September 2011).

Some words of inspiration: “We owe it to ourselves and to the next generation to conserve the environment so that we can bequeath our children a sustainable world that benefits all.” Wangari Maathai.

As she has left a green legacy behind, the challenge is left to you and I to do the same for our future generations. What legacy are we leaving behind?  We are overwhelmed by global ecological and socio-economic injustices. Many people, especially those on the ground, sometimes find it difficult to respond or they do not know where and how start.

We need not look further because we, Africans are the solutions to our challenges. Every individual has the potential and creativity to make a positive contribution towards a more sustainable future. We have spiritual values to guide and inspire us to do greater things. Just as Wangari Maathai has made a significant contribution to the planet, we can also take ownership of our future and begin to make small actions that will be fruitful a hundredfold and more. With these words, I call everyone to live intentionally by loving God and His entire creation day-by-day!
Read full article

How to...

This month we learn how to make a vertical bottle garden.

Food security and the cost and availability of food in Southern Africa has reached critical levels. We need to constantly investigate and experiment with different ways of growing food.

The Vertical Bottle Garden in this “How To” has been modified to suit Southern Africans needs and accessibility to resources.

The  "Vertical Bottle Garden" can be placed anywhere. It works on gravity feed to irrigate the bottles. You are re-using plastic bottles. Water is recycled through this process. It is cheap and easy to construct. You have a high yield of vegetables. And it looks beautiful!

Courtesy of USAID & WESSA

By Liz McDaid

You may read with interest about SAFCEI’s presentation to parliament or on its engagement with top government officials on strategic energy issues, but think to yourself, “I could never do that!” 

Actually, you could have a major influence! For government’s ideas and behaviour to change, we need people to provide examples at local level.  All of our individual actions can make a difference – a forest is made up of many trees!

And now SAFCEI is looking for local energy champions – could you be one of them?

How can my congregation learn more about energy and be part of the change to renewables?

SAFCEI started a new programme in 2012 called the Energy100 project, which is an action-learning project.  Its aim is to have 100 faith congregations responding to climate change by taking energy related action in their congregation. We have three years to achieve this aim.

Each project begins with an interactive workshop where congregation participants can learn about renewable energy and energy efficiency (using our resources wisely) as well as conserving our water resources.

Congregations then engage in their own energy and water audit with the help of our SAFCEI expert.  The audit provides baseline information of how they are using water and energy and provides feedback on where they are doing well, and where there is room for improvement.

Thereafter, under guidance from SAFCEI’s technical experts, the congregation develops a path of steps towards becoming more energy efficient, implementing renewable energy and conserving water.  These are practical steps towards taking on earth stewardship and living responsibly.  Part of being an energy100 project is that the congregation becomes a centre of excellence, a demonstration project that showcases a responsible environmental attitude particularly with regard to energy and water.

Congregations that take part in the energy100 project are also encouraged to join SAFCEI’s eco-congregation programme becoming part of a growing movement of people of faith committed to caring for the earth.

For more information contact Liz  .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
or Kate  .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


Making a mark for an alternative energy future
By Sarah Dekker

Green, blue, red, purple, one by one more and more smaller and bigger handprints filled the banner, each one of them a voice calling for an alternative energy future, one in which renewable energy replaces fossil fuels, coal, shale gas and nuclear energy. This was the 22nd September, Global Anti-Fracking Day and hundreds of people had gathered outside Cape Town parliament to call for the ban of shale gas fracturing in South Africa.

The protest, which was part of a global event, was organised and supported by several civil organisations, namely Earthlife Africa Cape Town, SAFCEI, the Coalition for Environmental Justice and Treasure the Karoo Action Group.

Meanwhile, people were covering their hands in paint to make their mark on SAFCEI's banner. SAFCEI is collecting handprints all over the country at various conferences, events and workshops throughout the months of October and November. They are a statement by people of faith, uniting in their diversity to call for an alternative energy future for South Africa. The handprinted banners will be displayed at the launch of an alternative energy plan  ahead of the ANC Mangaung conference. The plan is being compiled by the Electricity Governance Initiative (EGI-SA). Read on

Sub-Saharan faith leaders pray for an end to the illegal trade in Africa's wildlife 

Three members of SAFCEI were privileged to be part of a delegation of sub-Saharan religious leaders who met on 20th September in Nairobi National Park to pray at the site where 12 tons of illegally traded ivory was burnt in 1989.

A heap of ash is all that is left of the elephant tusks and is a grim memorial to Africa’s dwindling wildlife heritage. The ceremonial burning 23 years ago drew global attention to the problem of poaching and the illegal trade in wildlife products.

The recent event was organised by WWF and ARC, the Alliance of Religions and Conservation. It marked the establishment of a partnership which is calling on African faith leaders to speak out and act against the destruction of Africa’s wildlife

A Multi-Faith Indaba for Just Energy  
By Liz McDaid

What do faith communities have to do with energy?  Why must I, as a person of faith, be concerned about energy?
  Seventy eight faith representatives from a diverse range of faiths joined the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference Justice and Peace Department for a multi-faith indaba in Gauteng, South Africa, to find out.

There were panel discussions, talks, and activities. But this was not just a talkshop.  During lunch, participants went to make their mark for a just energy future.  As the photos show, this was about having fun for a serious cause! 

In the second half, a declaration was formulated which would be delivered to government.  While the declaration calls on government to stop false climate solutions such as nuclear energy and fracking, we are not leaving it all up to government and the declaration committed people of faith to “bind ourselves to promoting responsible citizenship, ethical decision-making about energy use and the increasing use of renewable energy in our own communities and home”.
Read full article

The great potential of Malawi
By Patricia Masinga (Nyasa Times)

SAFCEI  has asked Malawian faith bodies to identify core climate change working areas with a view of helping to coordinate support opportunities and facilitate funding incentives. SAFCEI's Regional Coordinator, Ameen Benjamin, met faith leaders from faith groups over a period of three days.

Rev. Dr. Osborne Joda-Mbewe of the Malawi Council of Churches (MCC) who hosted SAFCEI and presided over the event said  “We have a duty ordained by God to take care of God’s creation as is stated in Genesis. When God created everything He saw that it was well, and tasked humanity with taking care of all that He had created. This we must always do for our benefit and mostly the benefit of future generations,”.

Some issues that were raised in the meeting included threats to the eco-system around Lake Malawi that could result from possible oil exploration that government is pursuing, negative and time lasting effects from uranium mining at Kayerekera, and threats to the environment that could arise to human life, wildlife and vegetation should a Chinese company charged with introducing coal power goes ahead.
Read full article

EEASA Conference 2012
By Kate Davies

“Faith communities are an emerging constituency of lifelong environmental learning in the SADC region..."
“Faith communities are beginning to play a significant role in responding to the environmental crisis. Many faiths have had a tradition of speaking out against social injustice. The concept of ‘ubuntu’ now needs to be extended to all living communities, not just humans. People of faith have been slow to respond but there are now pockets of agency which are emerging as communities of good practice.”  These are ideas that I shared at the EEASA (Environmental Education Association of Southern Africa) conference held at Rhodes in Grahamstown in September . 

The theme of the conference: “Environmental learning, agency and social change,” was an appropriate platform on which to showcase the work of SAFCEI and her faith based partners to delegates from the SADC region.

Spirituality and values acknowledged at 1st Africa Congress Bremerhaven
By Lydia Mogano

Sustainability is the basic requirement for the success of futureā€oriented development processes.  This is what the nations of the world agreed on in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Because of Africa’s geographic location and rich resource base and biodiversity the continent has great potential to shape future development sustainability.

For this reason, Klimahaus (Climate house) hosted the ECOGA: Effective Cooperation for a Green Africa in Bremerhaven, Germany between the 12th and 13th of September 2012. This was a forum for German-African development partnerships and serves the exchange of knowledge. The contributions focused on the realities and perspectives of sustainable development in the context of the controversial field of “Green Growth” as the continent faces the challenge of adapting to the impacts of climate change.

This congress held various forums, workshops and speakers looking at successful projects and experiences from African organizations, Universities and NGOs including SAFCEI’s Climate Change Youth Ambassador’s programme.

The words of Dr Olive Ruppel were an inspiration. She calls for us to: “Stand up and move forward, educate your kids…and while doing so believe in God, it does not matter which God you believe in. This is an important message too, morals and values play important roles and we have African values too. Keep them up. Maintain them because when the negotiations become as difficult as they are, it is probably values that are the only things that can guide us in the right direction.” Read on

Many Heavens, One Earth, Our Continent
By Kate Davies

More than fifty religious leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa met at the Desmond Tutu conference Centre in Nairobi in September, to celebrate their commitment to help restore the Earth as a flourishing planet. Brought together by ARC, the Alliance of Religion and Conservation, Christian, Muslim and Hindu participants from all over Africa shared inspiring stories of their plans and of actions that are already taking place.  Sustainable agriculture projects, tree planting and educational initiatives are bringing a new meaning to the concept of faith community stewardship.

Under the theme: Engaging our communities, Kate Davies had an opportunity to talk about SAFCEI’s Eco-congregation programme and share resources. SAFCEI board members, Archbishop Seraphim Kykkotis and Shaun Cozett both received certificates in recognition of the commitments they had submitted on behalf of their churches.  The Greek Orthodox Church plans to embed environmental stewardship into the life of local congregations and ACSA, the Anglian Church of Southern Africa,  has a vision to implement the fifth mark of mission: “to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth” . After the conference, Kate said she wanted to acknowledge with appreciation the good work that ARC has supported on the continent and how grateful she was for the opportunity to share SAFCEI’s works and make new friends amongst African faith leaders who are all striving to renew and restore the Earth.

Some Interesting Facts for National Marine Day
  • Fisheries provide over 15% of dietary intake of animal protein
  • 40% of world’s population lives within 100 kilometers of the coast
  • Toxins in some marine species may yield anti-cancer drugs and other pharmaceuticals worth more than US$5 trillion
  • Coastal ecosystems provide services and protection from stores that are valued at nearly US$26 billion annually
  • One third of the world’s fish stocks are over-exploited
  • 30- 35% of the global extent of critical marine environments are estimated to have been destroyed.

Facts taken from UN website


By Glynis Goyns


I sense lip-licked salt and surf-horses blow,
wind-tangled fish-net hair whispering free,
the gritty sand and the abrasive sea-
motion beneath my skin.  My self may throw
my life in space as line cast for minnow …
the magnitude of this scene gives to me
the feel of life unbound by what might be
and certainty that tracks, soft-sinking now,
will last after the wave-lapping touches
those impressions clear.  Timeless spectre folk
of life-tread stand poised in the foot patches
that mark Your direction.  I will not baulk
at, nor renounce the sea’s enormity –
shell-cast as gifts in my proximity.


By Liz McDaid

This month's question:

Many South Africans love bird watching.  If we put up wind turbines are we not going to kill many birds?

Answers to September's questions:

Q.  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?

A. Hydro energy takes away land through flooding of the land behind the dam wall. Coal mining (such as strip mining) can take away large tracts of land away from agriculture.  Solar plants can be large but they use less land and produce more energy than dams and coal power.  In addition, renewable energy does not destroy the land, allowing for example, agriculture to continue under wind farms.

If we put solar panels on our houses, then we are using existing infrastructure to generate power, rather than building new infrastructure on pristine land, or potentially polluting our scarce water resources through fracking.

Special Dates

9th October Shimchat Torah Jewish
16th October World Food Day
16th October Navaratri Hindu
20th October Birth of the Bab Baha’i
20th October National Marine Day
25th October Youmi Arafah Muslim
26th October Eid-ul-Adgha Muslim
1st November All Saints Day Christian

National Marine Week (8-12 October): South Africa boasts a coastline of over 3,000 kilometres which stretches from the Orange River in the west to Kosi Bay in the east. The oceans along this coastline are rich in marine life and support many different marine ecosystems.

World Food Day (16 October): This day encourages us to focus on ensuring sustainable food resources for the growing world population and the essential role water plays in maintaining this food supply.