COP17 — at the stadium
Following November 26th’s orientation and dinner (a local favourite, “bunny chow” – hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with curry and eaten with fingers) at the Diakonia Centre (Diakonia Council of Churches – Durban, a rather unique local council of churches that has a long history of activism and resistance to the government of the day under Apartheid), it was off to the Kings Park rugby stadium the next day for the climate justice (“We Have Faith) inter-faith) rally and concert.
Ken and I met up with the Friends of the Earth International (FOEI) group so we could go together to the rally. The FOEI affiliate in Nigeria, Environmental Rights Action (ERA), hosts both the International and African secretariats of Oilwatch, and so we linked up with Ivonne Yanez of Oilwatch South America. Also there was Nnimmo Bassey who is director of ERA, Chair of FOEI, and coordinator of Oilwatch International. I had him sign my newly purchased copy of his book “To Cook a Continent: Destructive Extraction and the Climate Crisis in Africa” (Pambazuka Press, 2012) where he thanked KAIROS (and its members and constituency) for supporting the Oilwatch movement. Oilwatch has coined the phrases “keep the oil in the soil” and “keep the coal in the hole.” Nnimmo is also a Pentecostal pastor, one of Time magazine’s 2009 Heroes of the Environment, and co-winner in 2010 of the Right Livelihood Award (the Alternative Nobel Prize).
I also linked up with Georgine and Caroline during the rally. The near capacity crowd that the Faith Secretariat has envisioned never materialized, but many of the speakers and all of the music were incredible. One of the headliners was of course Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. He has an endearing habit of stopping mid thought and letting out loud, high pitched cackles when the Spirit and his funny bone strike him. As he was describing how we all live on one planet that both the poor and the rich must share, he stopped and laughed and continued: when catastrophic climate change strikes and takes the poor first, they – the poor — will be waiting for the rich who will come a bit later. suffering a similar fate, having destroyed the same planet.
Those of us gathered were addressed by faith leaders, the Mayor of Durban, the head of the UNFCCC, Christine Figueres, and COP17 president Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. The Youth Caravan that had travelled through several East and Southern African countries accompanied an ark to the stage in the stadium with thousands of We Have Faith petition signatures. Georgine had tried to have her youth and university students link up with the caravan when it passed through Tanzania; but because WSCF’s KAIROS-supported climate justice workshop was in Arusha, not Dar es Salaam on the caravan’s path, and because Tanzanian authorities wouldn’t allow a public demonstration due to security concerns connected to Al Shabab in Somalia, it didn’t happen.
Music included the Durban Gospel Choir, Yvonne Chaka-Chaka, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo.