Religious leaders ‘must protect environment’
RELIGIOUS leaders have failed to mobilise congregations to protect the environment, claimed lobby group Greenpeace International’s executive director at a Christian college in the city yesterday.
Kumi Naidoo, who has led Greenpeace for the past six years, told his audience at Cornerstone Institute in Salt River the “faith community must come to terms with an inconvenient truth”.
“The silence of religious leaders has been deafening. God created us, the mountains and all other species on the planet,” said Naidoo.
“Religious leaders have failed us. They need to fulfil their obligations and stand up for the environment.”
He said he was a “secular person”, but wanted religious communities to join Greenpeace in its environmental conservation efforts.
“The numbers of people we need to stand up to our governments won’t come from NGOs, student groups or unions.
“Congregations in mosques, churches, synagogues and temples are organised. There’s a lot of work on the shoulders of religious leaders. There’s enough environmental wisdom in every religious text to be found.”
Naidoo was spending his last few months with Greenpeace, he said, and planned to return to South Africa in January. The lobby group has its headquarters in Amsterdam.
Once home he wanted to work with young people because “we need to get them when they’re young”.
He said if South Africa had a “pro- gressive government” there would be a stronger focus on environmental awareness at schools.
“When I get back next year I’m hoping to spend as much time as I can in high schools.
“It’s going to be young people who make the right choices about what we will need for the environment for the next century.
“Children are already educating parents about the environment. They are running around the house putting the lights off; education has an impact.”
Naidoo said environmental groups and other NGOs needed to be more creative with their fund-raising campaigns in tough economic times.
Greenpeace is known for its confrontational approaches via its fleet of “battleships”, often making headlines when its activists are arrested.
“There will be more disinvestment (in the NGO sector) and we must become more creative.
“We need to use people, volunteers and money better. The model of the future is NGOs without full- time staff,” said Naidoo.
“We need to create alternative ways of income and resource generation. It’s a problem facing millions of organisations globally.
“The private sector needs to be moved in creative ways (to assist).
GREENING YOUR RELIGION: Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo wants religious leaders to do more to make their congregations aware of environmental challenges. Naidoo addressed a Christian gathering in Salt River yesterday.