Desmond Tutu was at his best yesterday at the Interfaith Rally here in Durban. As one new friend put it, “Tutu is liberation in human form” – an apt description as the ‘retired’ Archbishop compares the struggle to end apartheid with the struggle to mitigate climate change.
“You helped us become free. You supported us against a vicious system. We defeated it. Now we are facing another huge, huge enemy. No one nation can flight this particular enemy on its own. We are getting ready for the battle to fight against global warming and climate change… We worked together and crossed the Red Sea, from bondage to freedom. We want to move together into a world that is our home – a garden, not a desert.”
With a special message to governments who have said that they will not agree to a legally binding agreement, Tutu went on to say “We have only one home. Rich or poor, this is the only home. If we destroy this home, it won’t only be the poor people who will be destroyed – even the rich will have nowhere to go. So for your own sake, you who are rich, we are inviting you to come on to the side of right. Come and join us. Because if you don’t join us, maybe we will go first and then you, but you cannot be alright without us. God said, “I have created you to be one family.”
The vision for yesterday’s Interfaith Rally came from Bishop Geoff Davies of the South African Interfaith Environment Institute. As Bishop Davies welcomed us to the rally he made a point of naming three particular countries who should know better: the United States, Canada and Japan.
I suppose it’s not surprising that so many here assume that Canada did not ratify the Kyoto Accord. Hard to blame them for this misunderstanding when our actions have given them no reason to believe that we made these promises to the world.
“We have faith!” was the chant that rippled across the crowd, in response to both faith leaders and governmental leaders. The President of COP17, Her Excellency Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa, made a point of expressing her appreciation for people of faith and for our capacity to influence. She added, “It all depends on the trust we have in one another… We have heard your voice. We have heard your prayers.”
What a privilege it was to process and stand with other faith leaders. We will continue to stand with one another throughout these talks, honouring the words of Rabbi Warren Goldstein, Cheif Rabbi of South Africa, yesterday: “You know where the power is. It is here, in we the people. We have the power, for as the Talmud says ‘If you save one life, you save the world.’ Power doesn’t sit only with those in government. It rests with all of us in our churches, synagogues, mosques and temples.”
Sonali Fernando of ACT Alliance has kindly given me a couple of her stunning photos from yesterday’s event, so I’ll try to post these soon…