I was invited to participate together with other faith leaders on a Faith Rally the day before the COP 17 meeting was to open in Durban, South Africa. Bishop Desmond Tutu was the main attraction and was to give two sermons! The organizers had promised us an audience of 40 000 and a strong voice of faith based communities, from Christian, Muslim, Hindu and other backgrounds.
The event was not completely successfully prepared, the stadium was almost empty, maybe around 2000 people had assembled, and the so called faith leaders were marching together in our robes onto the grass of the stadium. Somewhat aimlessly and confused we marched around on the field, a bit like a kindergarten on excursion, and then the march was dissolved and we hung around in front of the stage or returned to the warmer suite where lunch and soft drinks still was served.
Bishop Tutu was amazing, mesmerizing, the 80 years old leader made all of us laugh and listen and almost cry as he was dancing around on the stage and ridiculing the rich who thought they could leave on some kind of business class while the rest of us were suffocating because of climate change.
– There is only one home, only one earth for all of us! Let us take care of it while we still can, said Tutu in his strong voice. You can play a 7 minutes video of Tutu at the bottom of this blog post, the sound is good, but the filming is not good, and I have to apologize for the moving, trembling camera, part of the time it was because I was laughing too much!
Half my motivation to go to South Africa was to meet the We Have Faith Caravan Africa 2011, the Climate Justice Caravan. The Climate Justice Caravan Is a cooperation between Africa Alliance of YMCAs, Kenya Youth Network and YWCA-YMCA of Norway, sponsored by Norwegian Church Aid. 160 young people traveling through 6 countries from Nairobi, Kenya to Durban, South Africa to raise awareness on climate change and consequences of this and collecting signatures on a climate justice petition, collecting more than 80 000 signatures and camping in rain and storm, in hot weather and cold, and sleeping in tents among snakes and scorpions. These 160 young people are my heroes and I am proud to have spent time with them in Durban a few days ago. They deserve a lot of praise and thanks. Share it with others, please!
James Eko Rhule and Carlos Sanvee, President and General Secretary of the African Alliance of YMCAs were also participating in the march of the Faith Leaders and the three of us spent a lot of time together with the Caravan people to listen to their stories and take their feed back and also to tell them how proud we were of them as young YMCA leaders living through such hardships for 47 days to fight against climate change.
To be honest we were all quite shocked to experience that during the main event on the stadium, those organizing church people did not take one of the young participants up on the stage and did not mention the Caravan at all. Unfortunately this is all too typical for the Ecumenical world, the churches’ relationship with young people is most of the time hopelessly passive and uncoordinated. Imagine how that stage would have looked for 10 minutes with 160 brave young leaders filling it with hope and engagement?
In stead there was no person on that stage who was not already retired or very close to become retired. Apart then from two supermen who were engaged by the organizers to tell about their attempts to swim either on the North Pole or on Mount Everest. Both, as I could understand from each of their 10-15 minutes speeches, had almost died in attempting to do these crazy things. -You could have stayed at home, and then you would not have risked to die, I thought to myself and wished that I could have heard my friends from the Caravan talk about their experiences in stead.
Here you can listen to James and Carlos:
And feel the energy from Sandy and Nick, participants in the Caravan:
And the youngest of them all, Desmond Tutu, the Arch: