Author: Dylan Appolis

The Justice and Peace Commission (J&P) of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference is a co-organiser for the November “ WE Have Faith Campaign” bike ride to raise climate change awareness and collect signatures for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (or COP 21) in Paris in December.

The bike ride will cover 6 500km, starting from Maputo, Mozambique, and ending in Nairobi, Kenya. It will pass through South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda before finishing in Kenya.

“We want to raise awareness of COP21 and environmental justice, especially in small communities, because climate change is affecting everyone in the country,” said J&P‘s Shaka Dzebu.

Cyclist Sibusiso Mavimbela who comes from Schoemansdal, Mpumalanga, said “I’m doing this for my family and because the environment is so damaged.”

Monageng Lebakeng from Tshwane has cycled professionally for nine years. He said: “When I was asked by the City of Tshwane to participate, I did not know anything about climate change. This has opened my mind and I am very pleased to join this climate event.”

Christopher Ndaba from Vereeniging, Gauteng, not only cycles but also runs and walks long-distance. “I love being part of movements advocating for change. Climate affects all of us.”

Matema Thosago from Polokwnw, Limpopo, has been cycling since 2011, when she participated in cycling caravan from Musina to Durban in the lead up to COP17. Ms Thosago is an eco-schools coordinator with the Wildlife Environmental Society of South Africa.

“I joined because I believe we can make a change. It doesn’t matter how many people participate, it’s about how much faith we have, “said Ms Thosago.

J&P coordinator Fr Stan Muyebe OP said that on their way from Maputo to Nairobi, the cyclists “will expect to raise one million signatures aimed at putting pressure on global leaders to come up with a binding agreement to lessen the effects of climate change.”

The bike ride will also have advocacy activities, he said, “including engagement of leaders of local government and community members to do their bit to mitigate climate change.”

“The idea of the bike ride is to show people that they can be part of the solution with climate change. For example, stopping littering is one of the most basic places to start. It is important that we become ecologically converted in response to the call by Pope Francis in [his recent encyclical] Laudato Si’,”Fr Muyebe said.

He said that the involvement of the bishops’ conference through J&P provides and opportunity to raise awareness of the message in Laudato Si’.

Through the bike ride from Nelspruit to Rustenburg, we will be able to interact with a lot of government officials in the municipalities and share the message of Laudato Si’ with them. Copies of the encyclical will be distributed to government officials inspired by the message from pope and our passion for environmental justice,” Fr Muyebe said.

He added that “a few municipalities have invited us to partner with them in designing and implementing activities in their environment programmes.”