Reli­gious lead­ers ‘must pro­tect en­vi­ron­ment’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - YAZEED KAMAL­DIEN

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).

PIC­TURE: YAZEED KAMAL­DIEN

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.

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