Pray for the Vlei
“I ask you all to strengthen our resolve, join hands and keep imagining how we would all like to see the Princess of the future.” - Father John Oliver’s last email to the Princess Vlei Forum committee before his death on July 4th 2012.
Princess Vlei has long been a site of spiritual significance. It is a site of organised church rituals, such as baptism; a site connected to the spiritual heritage of the KhoiSan, and a site where many residents over the years have come to be close to God. Archbishop Desmond Tutu is foremost amongst the many religious leaders who supported our campagn against the mall.
The Princess Vlei Forum worked closely with a number of religious groups to find ways to rally the faith community around the issue, and to bring to the attention of the authorities the spiritual significance of Princess Vlei, and its value as a site of beauty created by God. In 2013, PVF attended the Eco-fair at Christ Church Constantia; organised walks and information groups with church members, and worked with members of the South African Faith Communities Environment Institute (SAFCEI), Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Gospel Church of Power, Noah’s Ark Church, Dioscesan Environmental Group, Fellowship of Love Ministries, House Of Xoraxouhoe, and the Cochoqua House to organise a prayer meeting at Princess Vlei in September 2012. The Anglican Church held their own prayer meeting in collaboration with PVF in October.
For the churches performing immersion baptisms at Princess Vlei, the proposed mall development was a major threat to longstanding religious rituals. Not all religious groups were so directly threatened. But many members and leaders of the different faith communities were deeply concerned about this issue, and were strong voices in protecting this iconic site. On this page we reflect some of these views.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu
I would like to express my support for the campaign to save the greater Princess Vlei area from the inappropriate development of a shopping mall, and for its protection in perpetuity as a nature and heritage park. Princess Vlei is a valuable place for citizens to come to be close to God and nature, to find peace and to build family and community. God has carefully crafted our universe; let us stop destroying our beautiful world for the sake of short-term profit. Let us use our laws to safeguard our natural and cultural heritage.
Read about the cairn that was blessed at the prayer meeting on September 22 2012.
What the religious leaders say....
Sheikh Dr. Muhammad Ridwaan Gallant: Head of the Environmental Desk of the Muslim Judicial Council; on the board of the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI)
In 1975, South Africa signed the RAMSA treaty to protect wetlands. Now forty years later, we have to fight to save the vlei...The wetlands have a very significant role for us as humanity, stores the water to ensure no drought in summer months, prevent floods, recharge the ground water...If we destroy wetlands, it will lead to less water, increase flooding and lower agricultural productivity. In words of the Prophet... if you cut down a tree without justification, Allah will send down hell fire ... If a person kills a sparrow senselessly, Allah will make justice between them and the animal they killed.... We have so many malls, why do we want to establish another on on this sacred place?
Rabbi Greg Alexander: Rabbi of Temple Israel, West Coast, Cape Town, South African Association of Progressive Rabbis (SAAPR).
I am performing this ritual of Sukkot ... we have four species of plant symbolising different things. The palm is like our spine, the myrtle is like our eye, the willow is like our mouth, and the etrogg is like our heart. This can inspire us in the cause of Princess Vlei. We use our eyes to look upon this work of creation, see its beauty and know that this the way that God wants it ... we must use our mouth to tell those in powers that this vlei should remain open and availble to all who want to use it. The spine is to give us courage. The heart should be open to bring those who are standing against us to be with us.
Bishop Geoff Davies: Founder and executive director of the South African Faith Communities Environment Institute (SAFCEI)
Religious leaders are involved in this issue because it is a moral issue, and a deeply spiritual matter, how we live together with God, with one another, and with the rest of creation is a deeply spiritual matter...
If the developers are so insensitive and arrogant to persist, we can warn them we will encourage our congregations to boycott them.
If you say, we will be breaking the law, they must know that they are breaking the laws of God and the natural laws of the universe:
We are now calling on our leaders in this city, on our provincial leaders, on our government to do what is right in the eyes of God.
The Council must simply not allow the shopping mall. If they persist, we have a legitimate and legal way of expressing our views – we don’t vote for them at the next election!
Nigel Crawhall: International Network of Engaged Buddhists, International Union for Conservation of Nature, Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum
People all over the world are trying protect these sacred natural spaces. We have a sacred duty to earth. In Buddhist culture we are taught that all living beings are interconnected. Nature is there to enlighten us, the path to wisdom is the path to silence and meditation.
Victor Booi from the Church of God and Saints of Christ.
Baptism in living water is a very important part of our religion – it goes back to the time of Jesus. Every Sunday we come to Princess Vlei to baptise new converts. We travel all this way because this is natural water, with spiritual power.
The proposed mall is a very serious concern for us. The local and provincial government must give us respect, they must have the decency to consider our views. A shopping mall should be the last thing to think about for that place.
Pastor Andrew Williams, Fellowship of Love Ministries
We pray that God gives us the strength to stand together in this fight, we have heard so many voices going up to the heavens to declare about the necessity for this site, so many people have been baptised, so many people have experienced so much joy.
Pratiba Daya : Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University
Many of our problems in the world stem from an underlying belief that we are separate. The Baha’i faith teaches us that we are not separate, we are connected to each other and to earth.