From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ACNS - Caring for Creation, Fourth Report

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Thu, 29 Aug 2002 14:16:40 -0700

ACNS 3098 - SOUTH AFRICA - 23 August 2002

Caring for Creation, Fourth Report

by Claire Foster and David Shreeve

Thursday 22 August 2002

Two important areas for the Church were considered today, the fourth day of
the Anglican Communion Congress; Economic Justice and Environmental Justice.

Bishop Geoff Davies explained that we have Biblical injunctions to witness
and be involved in both areas yet they have been seriously neglected by the
Church in the past. "We don't have to be economists to know there is
something seriously amiss in today's world." Bishop Davies continued: "We
are now recognising the need to be involved in Economic Justice because of
the gross inequities prevailing in our world - people are being enslaved by
our present world economic structure. Fifty years ago, the majority of
people in Africa could feed themselves. Today a fifth of the world's
population, over a thousand million people, don't have enough to eat. Bishop
Davies went on to seriously question the morality of our present economic
system when we have a greater abundance of wealth and resources than ever.
"Unrestricted capitalism panders to our base instincts of selfish
acquisitiveness and greed - and that is why it is an issue that involves us
as people of faith."

International odious debts, he explained, are a direct cause of the
over-exploitation of natural resources. This combined with human greed, is
bringing about the destruction of indigenous habitants causing the
large-scale extinction of species and poverty.

Bishop David Beetge, from the Diocese of Highfelt, which includes some of
the poorest parishes north of Johannesburg, recalled the first four years of
his ministry (1990-94 - the lead up to ending apartheid) when 8500 people
died in political violence in his diocese alone. Since then many more have
died in African countries because of war and the turmoil's have contributed
to the current situation where 10 million people now live below the poverty
line. "We are still living in an apartheid economy. Real security must come
from governments taking seriously the needs of their people. If governments
really invested in their people than they would not need to invest in arms.
Unfortunately," the Bishop told delegates "the global community seems
totally committed to violence - the bullet that killed your son provided a
job for someone else" and he recalled the words of Ghandi - "poverty is one
of the worst sorts of violence."

Dr. Richard Fuggle, Professor of Environmental Studies, University of Cape
Town explained that he was also a consultant to a World Bank inspection
panel which examined projects where investment led to negative effects. He
quoted several examples of how what had originally been designed to improve
a situation had in fact proved detrimental. The introduction of Nile Perch
to Lake Victoria the largest lake in the world had originally been intended
to improve the local economy by producing added employment and trading
opportunities. Instead it had proved a disaster to the natural ecology of
the lake and totally destroyed the income opportunity for the local women
who had previously cured and sold the natural fish. Until the introduction
of the Nile Perch, the smaller indigenous varieties had kept the water of
the lake clean, but their extinction by the introduced variety meant that
pollution had been added to the lake's problems allowing water hyacinth
which had escaped from local gardens to get a strangle-hold on once
profitable ports. Dr. Fuggle explained that in the environment it was often
not possible to change just one thing!

A session on the Beauty of Empowerment began with a statement from Wangari
Maathati the founder of Kenya's Green Belt Movement. The Movement began in
1977 to involve local people in civic education and environmental projects.
Its work today has been extended to include food, security, advocacy and
networking. 100,000 are involved in the Movement's tree campaigns where
local community associations are formed to organise plantings. Groups are
encouraged to plant indigenous species and to date some 2 million trees have
been planted throughout 19 of Kenya's 26 regions.

Wangari's statement inspired delegates to look to themselves to germinate
and tend the seeds of change. She said, "I believe that inspirations come to
all of us but if we are unprepared they fall on infertile ground." Richard
Fuggle had concluded that the most important tools for change are "the hands
at the end of our own arms."

Thursday afternoon saw delegates travelling from Good Shepherd Retreat
Centre to visit three initiatives operated by the Tumelong Mission. At the
first they saw modern agricultural methods are being introduced to grow
tomatoes and peppers. Then the delegates moved on to a centre where clothes
are produced and embroidered, including some being produced to celebrate the
World Summit. The visit finished at a Centre for young people, who for a
variety of reasons find themselves at odds with society. The Centre began
offering 100 young people a year training in skills and community living.
The delegates were shown new building work which will enable it to provide
residential courses thus providing the users to move away from often
disturbed homes and families where many of their problems begin.

Despite this full programme delegates still spent time in the evening
finalising the wording of the Anglican Communion's statement to the World

Friday morning began with delegates considering future developments
including the establishment of an Anglican Communion Environmental Network.

Before leaving the Retreat Centre for the World Summit in Johannesburg the
delegates were joined by the Most Rev. Njongonkulu Ndungane, Archbishop of
the Province of South Africa who led their final Eucharist. During the
service Archbishop Ndungane blessed personal commitments written by each

David Shreeve
Claire Foster

Good Shepherd Retreat Centre
The ACNSlist is published by the Anglican Communion Office, London.

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