The Southern Africa Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI) brought together close to 30 faith leaders from multi-faith communities at Esella Country Hotel in Kampala, Uganda, to equip them with eco-justice advocacy skills through the Faith Leaders Environmental Advocacy Training (FLEAT).
Represented by its Programs manager, David Ngigi Munene, the Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa (CYNESA) enlightened the gathering about its journey in eco-justice advocacy and shared tips on how to run organizations from a faith perspective for the care of our common home. Participants learnt how CYNESA’s humble beginnings continue to be the backbone behind every success collected along the way and every lesson a challenge has presented. Being an organization that is conceptualized, founded and run by young Catholics in Africa for the common good, participants expressed interest in understanding the motivation behind the innovative volunteerism exhibited by the executive to the core teams at CYNESA.
Highlighting the importance of availability to the mission of caring for our common home, David explained that it is always a mission and a ministry that requires its believers to sacrifice some other aspects of the joys life brings. On advocacy, participants were encouraged to start from within their contexts and utilize the innumerable resources at their disposal to champion eco-justice activities. Further, the faith leaders learnt the importance of sticking to the mission as a vocation by God himself to them.
A FLEAT 1 graduate himself, David underscored the relevance and richness of the eco-justice advocacy training offered by SAFCEI describing it as Godly and Godsend. It was through the FLEAT programme that David got to create a family of multi-faith leaders across Zambia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Malawi and now Uganda. Reiterating that FLEAT helps one understand that religion and our differences are secondary to our divine call for care of our God-given common home, David used the example of his great brotherliness with Sheikh Qassim Chikwakwa of Malawi who is undertaking amazing environmental projects with more than 30,000 women in his country. The FLEAT programme taps into the potential of faith leaders in a practical and context-based way without overlooking the richness that diversity brings.
On her part, Lydia Mogano, the SAFCEI Regional Coordinator offered two thought-provoking sessions on the indispensable role of spirituality as the central pillar to sustainability. Without discounting the importance of ensuring a balance between the three pillars of sustainability i.e. economic, political and social, Lydia explained that the exclusion of spirituality implies missing out on a very critical component that binds the moral consciousness while championing the development of any of the other three pillars. Lydia also lit up the room with exciting mind and practical games, which kept participation alive throughout.
SAFCEI’s Eco-Justice Lead, Energy and Climate Change Coordinator, Liz McDaid, shared on the success story of the #AntiNuke Case where SAFCEI triumphed in stopping the secret nuclear deal after an intensive and faith-testing court gruel with the Government of South Africa. Liz challenged the faith leaders to stay alert and alive to the ever-growing tendencies by a section of African politicians to collude with external forces for self-gain at the expense of the common public good. SAFCEI’s victory is an exemplar of how ‘small’ forces could marshal to challenge evil and triumph even when the odds seem unwavering. During his first FLEAT training, SAFCEI offered David and other FLEAT 1 participants the rare opportunity of an antinuke vigil (on-street protest) to show disapproval against the secret nuclear deal outside the South African Parliament buildings in Cape Town, South Africa on the early morning of Wednesday May 6, 2015.
FLEAT is aimed at equipping faith leaders with the necessary skills to make positive changes in their communities. SAFCEI believes that people of faith have both a moral imperative and a special platform from which to speak out against socio-ecological injustices that face Africa. Living up to the mission of the FLEAT programme, which underscores networking, advocacy training and sharing of experiences with each other, the participants joined to establish networks where they would begin by sharing their success stories before embarking on joint eco-justice advocacy activities in Uganda depending on their contexts and community needs at the end of the FLEAT Uganda training. The highlight of commitment to FLEAT by the faith leaders was Catherine’s participation at the training with 6-month-old baby Zion. A follow-up training is to be undertaken in the near future subject to resource availability.
Cover photo: The faith leaders participating at FLEAT Uganda. David holding baby Zion, Catherine’s daughter (2nd from left) – If this is not commitment to FLEAT, it exists not.
David Ngigi Munene
Programs Manager, CYNESA.