Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has urged South Africans to join world faith leaders, political leaders and pop stars at an "extraordinary" mass rally on Nov. 27 at the King's Park Stadium in Durban.
The archbishop is to host the "We Have Faith – Act Now for Climate Justice" rally and concert, at which he will lead a call to world leaders attending the COP17 climate change talks in Durban that they should reach a fair and legally binding agreement to curb climate change.
Musicians including Ladismith Black Mambazo, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Arno Carstens, rap star HHP, Shabalala Rhythm and Kenyan Gospel rapper Juliani have confirmed they will perform at the rally, which will be free. The COP17 talks start in Durban the day after the rally.
Faith leaders including Pope Benedict XVI, Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, have also been invited. Those who cannot attend have been asked to send video clips of support.
Environmental campaigners and motivational speakers Lewis Pugh, the "human polar bear," and Braam Malherbe, a 50/50 presenter, will be among the many who will address the crowd.
"Apartheid seemed an overwhelming challenge that could not be defeated but we mobilized and defeated it. We need the same passion and determination to defeat climate change," says Tutu.
"Climate change is an even greater threat to us than apartheid was, because as temperatures rise, millions of Africans will be deprived of water and crops. This will cause enormous suffering. It is something we simply cannot allow.
"In the face of such a huge threat, many of us feel numb and throw up our hands, believing we can't make a difference. But we can make a difference – come to the rally. It will be an extraordinary event. And if you cannot come, please sign our petition on www.wehavefaithactnow.org. We want to have over one million signatures on these petitions at the rally to hand over the world leaders.
"Along with the many other faith leaders in the campaign, I appeal to you all - don't hesitate to join us. Your support could help make a world of difference in keeping our planet cool."
At the rally, Tutu will hand over the petition to COP17 Chair, South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who has confirmed she will attend to receive it.
UNFCCC executive secretary Christina Figueres has confirmed she will attend the rally, and South Africa President Jacob Zuma is among the many key politicians who have been invited.
The "We Have Faith" petition calls on world leaders to commit to a fair, ambitious and legally binding agreement, for a renewal of the Kyoto Protocol, and for funding to help Africa adapt to climate change.
Learners from dozens of schools throughout KwaZulu-Natal will also participate in the rally, presenting environmental-themed posters and messages to the leaders and performing song-and-dance numbers.
The faith leaders participating in the campaign are reiterating scientists' predictions that that if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed, by the end of the century average world temperatures will rise between 2 and 4 Celsius, and up to 6 Celsius in parts of Africa.
Climate change is already causing unpredictable, extreme weather across the world, they say. Large numbers of people, especially in Africa, are struggling to survive amid increasingly severe droughts, floods and other disasters. Although Africans have done very little to cause climate change, they will be among the most devastated. A new climate change treaty is crucial to prevent enormous suffering and loss of life.
South African finance minister Pravin Gordhan, Tutu, university chancellor Ela Gandhi, satirist Pieter–Dirk Uys and author John van de Ruit are the latest public figures to sign the "We Have Faith" petition, which has also been signed by thousands of people across Africa.
The "We Have Faith" campaign has several other key elements, which include a youth caravan traveling from Nairobi to the rally, and a day of prayer on Dec. 4 for a just outcome to the talks.
The gates at the rally open at 10 a.m., community entertainment starts at 11 a.m. and the concert starts at 12:30 p.m. Tickets are available from Nov. 11 at The Shark Tank Shop, the Diakonia Council of Churches and various other organizations ahead of time.
Tickets can also be collected on the day at the stadium ticket office.
Hundreds of youth activists and artists from many African countries, including South Africa, are travelling from Nairobi to Durban in the caravan (a convoy of "We Have Faith"-branded buses). Along the way, they will stage youth-led climate concerts in cities including Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Lusaka, Gaborone, Lilongwe and Johannesburg (Soweto).
More than 200 climate activists are taking part in an epic "Ride for Climate Justice" from Beitbridge in Mpumpalanga to Durban, where they will attend the rally.
For more information, log on to www.wehavefaithactnow.org, follow the campaign on Facebook ("We Have Faith – Act Now" community) and Twitter ("COP17ActNow"). Watch the YouTube video of Archbishop Tutu's call to people to sign the petition, here.
For updates on the caravan, please follow Twitter account @HaveFaithActNow