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ACNS - The Anglican Congress on the Stewardship of Creation
Worldwide Faith News <email@example.com>
Thu, 29 Aug 2002 14:13:06 -0700
ACNS 3095 - SOUTH AFRICA - 22 August 2002
The Anglican Congress on the Stewardship of Creation
Live report from Claire Foster and David Shreeve
19th August 2002
Representatives from around the Anglican Communion have begun the first ever
event the Communion has held to discuss and debate the issue of sustainable
development, which is the subject of the forthcoming World Summit.
Over 80 delegates from north, south, east and west have joined together at
the Good Shepherd Retreat Centre, just a few miles north of Johannesburg,
which will play host to the World Summit during the next two weeks.
The Anglican Communion's Congress has been organised by the Communion's UN
Observer, Archdeacon Taimalelagi Fagamalama Tuatagaloa-Matalavea, who will
be presenting a statement prepared at the Congress by delegates for world
leaders at the Summit.
The UN Observer's office has worked closely with a local Anglican leader, Rt
Revd Geoff Davies, Bishop of Umzimvubu, who has involved several
representatives of CPSA in the Congress. They have been able to bring first
hand experience of the issues affecting South Africa and share these with
delegates from elsewhere in Africa, and others from as far afield as India,
Bangladesh, Fiji, Jamaica, Australia and the UK.
The first day of the Congress began with an heart-stirring explanation of
some of Africa's own environmental concerns by Dr Anthony Turton, head of
African Water Issues Research Unit, University of Pretoria, who asked, "What
is happening to water?" Dr Turton's message was brought home to the
delegates when he talked about the Hartesbeespoort Dam which is overlooked
by the Good Shepherd Retreat Centre. Dr Turton explained that the dam,
created in the early 1900s to provide water to areas further north, would be
silted up within 50 to 60 years. Several square miles of contaminated land
will result, surrounded by communities currently enjoying the benefits of a
lakeside environment. Dr Turton intrigued many delegates by explaining that
in South Africa, the government can be sued if people are damaged by the
environment, and the ecosystem has its own legal rights. In many countries
of Africa, environmental issues are complex, involving lifestyles and social
issues. In Zambia, for example, limestone is turned into concrete granules
by women crushing rocks to earn a few dollars to pay for their families'
water. However, to create the stones, water is poured onto limestone, heated
by burning disused car tyres. This in itself produces huge amounts of
carcinogenic black smoke.
Dr Turton was followed by Dr Alan Werritty, Professor of Physical Geography,
University of Dundee, and representative of the Scottish Episcopal Church,
who encouraged delegates to report on examples of water issues in their own
Provinces. Both Bangladesh and India reported on arsenic poisoning, now
caused as a result of drinking water, and delegates voiced their concerns
over water privatisation in many parts of the world and, in particular, on
plans being made in India to privatise rivers. African delegates reported
that several of their countries often share rivers, each taking out supplies
upstream of the other. In one case, Lesotho is now selling water to South
Africa, and delegates questioned whether the water was Lesotho's to sell.
Whilst big dams formed part of the solution to water supplies in the last
century, alternatives now need to be found. However, a delegate from Hong
Kong explained that there, a scheme to turn sea water into drinking water
had proved too expensive. On more than one occasion delegates were told how
increased wealth throughout the world was putting even greater demands on
water supplies, and the expense of supplying water to golf courses being
developed in desert areas were contrasted to the needs of many poor families
around the world.
The issues of water could fill a whole congress, but the programme moved on
to consider 'Deep in the flesh: the Body of Christ, HIV/AIDS and Sustainable
Development' with Dr Denise Ackermann, visiting Professor, Faculty of
Theology, University of Stellenbosch. Dr Ackermann, who acted as a
theological consultant to Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane at the 1998
Lambeth Conference, introduced a wide range of issues concerning the AIDS
epidemic. This is currently responsible for a deadly swathe through Africa's
20 to 40 year olds. Dr. Ackermann explained that the married woman is at
greatest risk, and that for her often the 'virus of denial' is the greatest
enemy, for "who wants to add stigma to an already appalling situation?" She
asked why members of the Communion were not lamenting at humankind's effect
on our planet, and encouraged delegates to regain the language of
lamentation. "After all," she explained, "was not the origin of the
eucharist human deceit?"
Delegates were able to expand their view to an international picture of
major proportions. Revd Canon Earnle Gordon from Jamaica explained how AIDS
was a disease caught up with numerous familial and cultural complications.
He was followed by the Bishop of Uganda, whose offering was particularly
moving as he described his daughter's own death from AIDS. His passionate
description of the disease's impact on his country made a major impact on
the delegates. A representative from the Church in India explained that in
her country it was difficult to estimate the numbers of those affected by
the disease because of the shortage of testing facilities in rural areas,
and the stigma that many of those affected feel, preventing them from making
their circumstances known to others.
Later in the day, Dr Jan Loubser led a workshop on Local Community
Empowerment. Dr Loubser, who is a consultant to the UN in Holistic
People-Centred Development, encouraged the delegates to consider the village
as the basic community, giving examples of the important role played by
villages in India, Uganda and Zambia. He then challenged delegates to
practice local community empowerment there and then by considering "What
does stewardship mean to me personally?"
At midday, the delegates took a break from their deliberations by joining
together in a eucharist where the preacher was Rt Revd Simon Chiwanga,
President of the Anglican Consultative Council. He referred to the
Archbishop of Canterbury's message to delegates, which asked for an example
to be set of not just talking about sustainable development, but living it.
Good Shepherd Retreat Centre, Hartesbeespoort Dam, South Africa
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