Gilbert Munetsi Review Correspondent
The six professional Zimbabwean cyclists from Bulawayo’s Flying Eagles Club who early in the week embarked on a faith-based mission from Plumtree en-route to Kariba were welcomed with a concert during their three-day stop-over in Harare .
A concert punctuated with song, dance, prayer and worship in the Harare Gardens formed part of the programme which this year was begun by the “We Have Faith Now” organisation in partnership with Act Alliance, Pan African Justice Alliance, Oxfam and the Norwegian Church Aid.
It was one of the activities aimed at raising awareness on environmental issues with the political and diplomatic circles adding their voices to the adverse effects of climate change.
They received support from the Friends of the Environment, Media4Nature, the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe and the department of Climate Change in the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate.
The concert in Harare Gardens on Wednesday had on its menu performances by Masimba Edenga United Methodist Church (an acapella group) singing in aid of the cause in a line-up that also had women from the Christian Marching Church, Artists for Democracy, Madiz and Extra Large providing musical entertainment.
The nine-nation cycling relay over 70 days began in Maputo on August 29, and will end in Nairobi and covers Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.
It is the task of each country, through its hosting religious representative body (in the local case the Zimbabwe Council of Churches) to ensure the planting of trees and collection of petitions that will add to the African concerns and expectations to be tabled before the grand climate change convergence in Paris at the end of the year.
This, however, is not the first time that the religious sector has spoken out and taken an active role in combating this destructive global phenomenon.
During the 17th edition of the Conference of Parties (COP17) in Durban, for instance, Bishop Desmond Tutu handed over 200 000 petitions collected by a group of youths who had started off on a caravan from Nairobi.
While this year one of the biggest gatherings of countries of the world —where 40 000 stakeholders are expected to meet and deliberate on the climate change subject — takes place in a faraway country on another continent.
The build-up through mobilisation of even more signatures and greening initiative has not gone unnoticed as it has attracted the involvement of Heads of States, legislature and the diplomatic community who have all accented by rendering mainly moral support to the cause.
At another event in Harare on Wednesday, Water and Climate Change Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri officiated at the Harare Gardens ceremony where she “preached” to the religious gathering on matters around behaviour change and climate change.
The minister, who a fortnight ago was in Paris for a preparatory meeting ahead of COP21, told the Christians gathered in the capital that it was no longer business as usual, but climate change had developed into a global threat that people needed to take collective action to solve.
“Time is now for churches to take the initiative to bring awareness to the generality of all Zimbabweans, thereby giving a hand in making our country a climate change resilient nation with bankable and sustainable adaptation strategies and actions.
“We have a challenge to create green jobs, plant trees and conserve water as doing so is becoming more critical and fundamental for Mother Earth to be a more habitable and peaceful place.
“On the other hand, world leaders need to take note and implement the recommendations in the petitions by yourselves (the churches) to promote governance and legal reforms which promote climate justice.”
She wrapped up her speech by appending her signature to the petition, after which she also planted a tree inside the gardens
Her sentiments were echoed by the French Ambassador to Zimbabwe and Malawi, Laurent Delahousse, who had told the cyclists, organisers of the cycling event and journalists at a press conference that his country was aiding Zimbabwe with technical expertise in its preparation for its national contribution to the UNFCCC process as expected of signatories to the convention.
Ambassador Delahousse said about $100 billion was required annually until 2020 to fund adaptation initiatives and help the world compensate and mitigate climate change.
“It is evident Zimbabwe is severely affected by the phenomenon as those who have been to Kariba can testify that the level of water in the lake tells you there may be a challenge of the production of electricity in the coming years.”
He said the drive by the church was a wonderful opportunity for his country as the chairman country of this year’s COP and one of many engagements with many other stakeholders in the implementation of an ultimate strategy termed “The Walk to Paris”.
He joined the cyclists, ZCC, journalists and pupils who planted trees at Chizungu Primary School in Epworth and also signed a petition of the “We Have Faith Climate Justice Campaign”.