One of the guests at the 2014 Cradle to Cradle congress in Lueneburg was the German adventurer and human rights activist Rüdiger Nehberg. With his open and humorous temperament he proved that he knows how to inspire people. A few years have passed since then, but when “Sir Vival”, as he is often referred to, visited the Buchholz events centre Empore at the end of January it quickly became evident that in spite of his 82 years, Nehberg has lost none of this thoroughly positive spirit. He delighted the audience with witty snake and adventure stories, but he also made clear that there are a number of more serious motives for traveling around the world as an adventurer.
From adventurer to human rights advocate
In fact, Rüdiger Nehberg’s exciting life as an adventurer only really began to make sense to him, when he also became an activist for human rights. Working together with environmental and human rights groups such as Greenpeace, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) and Survival International, a support organisation for indigenous peoples, he actively generates publicity. His commitment to ensure the survival of the Yanomami tribe in Brazil goes back several decades. Especially in the 1980s their territory and their survival were under threat from gold miners who brutally invaded their land. According to Survival International, the intruders shot dead members of the tribe, destroyed villages and introduced devastating diseases. Rüdiger Nehberg performed a number of spectacular public relations campaigns – including several crossings of the Atlantic Ocean and a march to the Pope – to draw attention to the plight of what is possibly the last remaining people living freely in the Brazilian rainforest.
Commitment against female genital mutilation
Many years ago Nehberg also focused his attention on another human rights issue that is no less dramatic: he actively supports the fight against female genital mutilation. Every day the issue affects an estimated 8.000 girls around the world. Although some aspects of his campaign have been rather spectacular, Nehberg’s commitment to the dignity of these girls in the context of his own charity, “Target”, which he founded with his current wife Annette Weber, remains constructive and a testament to his deep understanding of foreign cultures.
Target project “Golden Book”
The two are working to build a pro-Islamic alliance against female genital mutilation. High dignitaries as well as Muslim clerics are joining the Target campaign, and they do so on the basis of the Koran. After all, the holy book itself considers the body to be “the most beautiful symmetry”, which should remain intact. Another one of Target’s successes is its Golden Book. Nehberg is in the process of distributing it to Imams in mosques in 35 countries around the world, where female genital mutilation is still a common occurrence. The book contains the so-called “Cairo fatwa”, which was initiated by Target at a conference at the Al-Azhar Mosque and the University of Cairo. During the conference Muslim theologists of the highest order proscribed female genital mutilation as a “crime” that is incompatible with their religion. The book also contains information on the consequences of female genital mutilation. It is intended to help Imams formulate their sermons. Credit is due to Annette Weber and Rüdiger Nehberg, whom I have known and appreciated for many years, that they approach others without any fear. Nehberg understands where the roots of many evils reside, and that’s just where he fights them. In spite of the seriousness of the causes that he stands for he has managed to preserve his happy disposition and the often mischievous manner in which he relays his tales – and it’s just those qualities that seem to be an integral part of the reason for his success.