We have faith, we must act and we must act now is the message from South African and World Faith leaders on the eve of COP17.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu led the event, with faiths from across the world participating – some via video link – to petition UNFCCC Chief Christiana Figueres and COP17 president Ms. Maite Nkoana Mashabane.
Speaking to crowds at the King’s Park Stadium Tutu said: “We have only one home. Whether you are rich or poor, this is your only home. If we destroy this home, we’ve had it.”
Although the crowds were less than the organisers had hoped for, the people who were there made up for it with their enthusiasm and their noise – with chants of “We have Faith” erupting at many points throughout the day.
Faith leaders were joined by leaders across Durban – including the town mayor James Nxumalo – youth groups and musicians. The crowds were also treated to talks from Arctic swimmer Lewis Pugh and endurance runner Braam Malherbe, who ran the Great Wall of China.
And from the first procession, where faith leaders were joined by Youth groups from across Africa, till the closing, music played a central theme in the rally. With songs from Ladysmith Black Mambazo and the Durban Gospel and Community Choir breaking the proceedings.
But despite the fun of the event, the message was clear. Governments must act now for climate justice.
Bishop Geoff Davis said: “We have to say fossil fuel destroys our atmosphere, our water, our soil, our biodiversity. And we also have to say nuclear is not the answer. The great news is that God has given us all of the energy that we need, from the sun and the wind and the ocean currents. So to our governments we say use the natural renewable energy sources that God has given us.”
The petition to the COP17, present to Figueres and Mashabane by cyclists who had travelled from all corners of the continent was signed by over 200,000 people from across the faiths.
An emotional Figueres won over the crowd when she said just as these cyclists’ journey, the road to climate action is a long one, but people must remember that small steps are being taken.
She also said she would be “where she is supposed to be” – right behind Mashabane when she gives the petition to the COP.