During Interfaith Harmony week Prayers for the City were held in Cape Town on the 2nd of February.
Bishop Geoff Davies, known as the Green Bishop was invited to address the gathering. Here is his message
It is crucial that religions work together.
Thank you Dr Bhadra Shah, vice-Chair of the Parliament of World’s Religions, for coming from the USA and for your words. You reminded me of a phrase I heard from one of our Anglican clergy recently: “Diversity is Divine!” I want you all to remember this. Life on the planet evolved and was brought about by our creator through diversity. Look at the wonder and beauty and variety of nature. It is infinitely diverse and that gives it its strength. Likewise, we should rejoice in the diversity of people and races, cultures, faiths. It is what makes our lives so fascinating. Let us not feel threatened by those who speak different languages or dress differently. Let us rejoice in it.
First, it is essential that the different faiths work together, not least to stop conflict between religions and work for peace. Well done CTII. It is also crucial that faith communities are involved as, hopefully, they uphold values and ethical principles – of justice, equity, compassion, love – and also honesty and integrity and service, overcoming self-seeking power and corruption.
But also to work together to combat the greatest threat humanity has faced – Climate Change. And it is a threat – how would Cape Town cope with the ocean again flowing through the Flats!
This is what SAFCEI, the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute, sis trying to do – work with all faiths for ecojustice, that is justice for ecology and socio-economic justice for people.
If an elephant suddenly arrived at our door, we would all focus our attention on how we would treat this great animal, and we would work together. So we all, of whatever race, nationality, faith, should work together to confront environmental destruction.
Climate Change and environmental destruction is so serious, we must all unite and cooperate.
The “trash bash” in the wetlands at Rondevlei yesterday was important, as that is a reminder of how important our natural environment is, and how important it is that all Faiths care for God’s creation. We thank the Mayor for being there and are grateful the City is caring for eleven nature reserves, though we know they deserve even more care!
And CTII, the Environment must be high on your agenda – I think higher than it is! Environmental justice is not just caring for elephants and hippo – it is about caring for our life-support systems.
We know the massive concerns of social and economic injustice in our City and country, and we must overcome this. It is an offence to God that people should live in the conditions so many have to endure in our beloved country. We know the desperation of so many for justice.
But we also have to recognise that we cannot survive without clean water, and proper sanitation, clean air and fertile soil. These are environmental issues. We have to care for our environment if we are to have this.
Maybe the Philippi Horticultural Area is an example. There are those who want to bring “Development” and build over it, increasing the value of the land and so some will make lots of money. But this is a unique area Cape Town has been blessed with, with its agriculture and aquifer which must be preserved and protected for future generations.
Protecting the environment is not only essential for our survival. What is at stake is the survival of all of God’s creation. We humans are threatening 50% of species, bringing millions of animals, insects, plants into extinction.
As I walked Rondevlei yesterday I suddenly felt what an incredible Sanctuary this is. A sanctuary is a holy place for God and God’s creation. All those birds, and plants and creatures might not survive without a sanctuary like that. We must preserve wilderness areas for the rest of creation. There are billions of humans. Give space for other creatures! We know Deputy Mayor that birds don’t have a vote and can’t pay rates, but they are equally important and we have a responsibility to care for them.
To end, some say we must care for people first. Men, they say in a patriarchal way (not people), are the pinnacle of God’s creation. I am sorry, but this is simply not true!
We are part of God’s creation. Part of the web of life on this amazing planet of life. All, all life, is precious to God. We must protect and care for all of life.
Pope Francis has said we must care for God’s creation, and he says that if you care for something, you love it. We are called on to love life – all of life, everyone and everything with life. Love it!
Blessings on all of you! Amen
PHOTO CREDIT – SAFCEI