Christian Climate Action Campaigners Not Guilty of Obstruction

Fr Martin Newell, and Rev Sue Parfitt outside Inner London Crown Court after the verdict
Fr Martin Newell CP and Rev Sue Parfitt outside Inner London Crown Court after the verdict

Source: Independent Catholic News

Well-known Catholic activist Fr Martin Newell, a Passionist Priest currently based in the Diocese of Westminster, was among a group of three people cleared in a court case on 15th January 2022.

Three Christians, including an Anglican Priest and a Catholic Priest, who stopped a DLR train at Shadwell station in London in 2019 in protest at inaction on the climate emergency, were lawfully exercising their right to peaceful protest, a jury has found.

Rev Sue Parfitt, 79, Fr Martin Newell, 54, and Phil Kingston, 85, all members of Christian Climate Action, were found not guilty of obstructing trains or carriages on the railway under the malicious damages act. Sue and Martin stood on top of the train and Phil glued himself to the outside of it then prayed with other members of Christian Climate Action. They told the jury at Inner Court London that they took the action in desperation after trying everything else they could think of to draw attention to the climate emergency.

Speaking outside court after the verdict, Fr Martin Newell said that while he is delighted with the verdict he is still willing to take action that risks a prison sentence, adding: “I’m very grateful to the jury for acting on their conscience and hearing the issues that we wanted to raise in the original action two-and-a-half years ago. The climate emergency is the biggest issue facing the human race in our time and nothing is more important than dealing with that. Despite the words that many governments have said about it being urgent, they’re just not doing it.”

Zoë Blackler from Extinction Rebellion. said: “When a jury hears the truth about the escalating climate crisis, with the depth and seriousness they won’t get from the government or the media, they understand the urgent need to act. The real criminals here aren’t three committed Christians risking their liberty to sound the alarm on a threat of existential proportion, but a government failing to do what’s necessary to safeguard the future of the human race.”

All three defendants told the jury they were compelled by their faith to take action to protect God’s creation and prevent run-away climate change. Kingston also said he was taking action “for the future of my grandchildren and for the future of yours.”

During the trial the jury was presented with a set of facts, agreed on by both the defence and the prosecution, about the escalating climate crisis. These agreed facts included that: “Climate change is a clear and imminent threat to human civilisation. It has become increasingly widely recognised that immediate substantial action needs to be taken in order to stabilise the climate at a temperature in which we can avoid massive and widespread loss of life”.

This trial follows the acquittal by a jury in December of six people, also all members of Christian Climate and known as the DLR ‘Canaries’, who were charged with the same offence during an action at Canary Wharf station in April 2019.

In that case, as in this one, the jury was directed by the judge to decide whether a conviction was “necessary in a democratic society” or whether it would be a disproportionate interference in the defendants’ human rights. The ‘Canaries’ jury returned a unanimous Not Guilty verdict in less than an hour.

The issue of proportionality – arising from the Supreme Court’s recent Ziegler ruling – was also one of the defences used by the ‘Colston 4’ – who toppled a statue of a former slave trader – in their trial which concluded last week. The four were acquitted by a jury in Bristol after removing a public statue of the slave trader Edward Colston.


Christian Climate Action –

A blog published at the time of the action:

Launch of the Southern Dioceses Environment Network – Monday 10th January 2022, 12.45pm

Everyone with a heart for the environment is welcome to join us for the first online meeting of a new network of Catholics in the South of England committed to the care of our common home.

Throughout 2021 a group of Catholics from London and the South-East met on Zoom every Monday lunchtime for prayer, sharing, discussion and mutual support on the Care of Creation in preparation for COP26 which took place in Glasgow, 1-12 November.

We are now moving into a new phase with a new name for 2022.

The Southern Dioceses Environment Network plans to meet monthly online on the second Monday of the month and also organise in-person events when possible during the year.

We will also be liaising with the Northern Dioceses Environment Group and other ecumenical, interfaith and civic groups as we all work together to animate action to tackle the climate crisis and address other environmental concerns in the run-up to COP27 in Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt, 7-18 November 2022 and beyond.

Participants to date include CAFOD staff and volunteers, Justice and Peace, Caritas, clergy, religious, parishioners, Laudato Si’ Animators, Journey to 2030, Christian Climate Action (XR), environmental charities, activists and interested individuals, young and old. You are most welcome to join us or attend as a one-off to find out more.

Register in advance with Eventbrite to receive the Zoom link:

Young Adult Report – COP26 – A Missed Opportunity

Some of the CAFOD youth delegation outside the SEC. Caitlin is front row, third from left.

Source: Caritas Westminster

From 5-7th November 2021 Caitlin Boyle from the Diocese of Westminster joined CAFOD as part their COP26 youth delegation in marching, campaigning and praying for climate action and justice in Glasgow. Over 30 young adults were part of CAFOD’s COP26 youth delegation who travelled up to Glasgow to apply pressure on world leaders attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference, to be bold and ambitious in their attempts to tackle the climate crisis. 

Caitlin also works as the Information Officer for Caritas Westminster and here gives her report on the experience of campaigning for climate justice.

The CAFOD delegation were able to visit the Scottish Event Campus (SEC), where the COP26 talks and negotiations were taking place, to hear from different scientists, activist groups and indigenous people from all around the world about the effects the climate crisis is having globally and what measures need to be in place to help mitigate them. On Saturday 6th November, despite inclement weather, the CAFOD delegation joined other faith groups (including SCIAF, Jesuit Missions, Islamic Relief, Tearfund and Christian Aid), local organisations and climate activists in marching through the centre of Glasgow, as part of the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice, with around 100,000 people attending in Glasgow alone!

Photo credit: Thom Flint

Whilst in Glasgow, Caitlin and the CAFOD youth delegation were campaigning for global leaders to commit to plans to limit global temperature rises to no more than 1.5 degrees; deliver the money promised to low-income countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change; and to consign fossil fuels to history. 

Speaking about why she went to Glasgow, Caitlin says: 

‘Climate change is affecting us all, no matter where we are in the world, though it is most adversely affecting people in poorer countries, costing people their livelihoods, their homes, and even their lives, despite these countries contributing least to the crisis. Even here in the UK, however, where the effects will be much less severe, floods and heatwaves are likely to disproportionately affect more deprived communities.

‘The Covid-19 pandemic has further exacerbated and compounded social, economic, and environmental inequalities, with poorer communities again more susceptible to their effects – something I have seen through my work at Caritas Westminster. The pandemic has put further strain on communities ill-equipped to deal with these crises.

‘As the host of COP26, the UK government had a really crucial role in setting the tone for how the world emerges from the pandemic, ensuring that a post-Covid world is one which is equitable – it should not be another missed opportunity.’

The two-week climate conference ended this past weekend (Saturday 13th November). Despite progress in agreeing to phase out fossil fuel usage and investment as part of the Glasgow Climate Pact – the first COP agreement which specifically talks about fossil fuel divestment – world leaders failed to act with the courage and immediacy needed to effectively support those on the front line of the climate crisis. They delayed action on limiting temperature increases, and did not deliver the climate finance that is urgently needed.

Speaking about the decisions made at COP26, Caitlin says:

‘It is disappointing that once again, world leaders failed to place those who are most adversely affected by the climate crisis at the heart of their discussions. As Catholics, it is our duty to work for the common good, and speak out for the poor, the marginalised and the voiceless, and so it is essential that we engage with and campaign on issues relating to social and climate justice. We are called to be stewards of God’s creation, and to protect it. 

‘Despite government inaction at this COP, we as young Catholics must continue to campaign for our common home; the eyes of the world now need to be firmly focused on those who are actually feeling the effects of the climate crisis first hand.

‘Pope Francis said at the start of COP26 that, “The political decision-makers who will meet at COP26 in Glasgow are urgently summoned to provide effective responses to the present ecological crisis, and in this way to offer concrete hope to future generations.” Whilst the decision makers may not have provided the effective responses needed this time, I can certainly draw hope from the amazing campaigners I got to work with as part of the CAFOD delegation, and their commitment and enthusiasm has emboldened and mobilised me to continue to speak out about climate injustice!’ 

Caritas Westminster is working with the Westminster Justice and Peace Commission to encourage local action against climate change, and supporting Westminster Diocese’s plans for decarbonisation.

Catholics at COP26

Catch up with the webinar held on Wednesday 10th November 2021 chaired by Bishop John Arnold, Lead Bishop for the Environment for the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales.

The event was organised by the international Laudato Si’ Movement and the Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science (ECLAS) project to engage with climate science, explore insights from theology, and discuss the Church’s role in communication and action around the climate crisis.

The webinar featured contributions from Dr Lorna Gold (Board Chair of the Laudato Si’ Movement), Dr Carmody Grey (Assistant Professor of Catholic Theology at Durham University), Dr Franziska Kohlt (Researcher in Science Communication, University of York & ECLAS), Lydia Machaka (Climate Justice and Energy Policy Officer, CIDSE), and Fr Eduardo Augusto O’Carm, (Climate Scientist).

“Pope Francis has asked us to take decisive, urgent action to transform this crisis into an opportunity. As Catholics, we have a role to play as well, each and every one of us.”

Bishop John Arnold

Follow-up to COP26. What Happens Next?

Westminster Justice & Peace were among 25,000 participants at the Global Day of Action for the Climate rally in London, 6th November 2021

Here are details of some events coming up in the next few weeks which will help us to learn and reflect more about the outcomes of the UN Climate Conference, COP26, that is currently nearing completion in Glasgow. The real work is just beginning!

13 November, 11am-1.30pm: National Justice and Peace Network Online Open Networking Day – Reflection and Response to COP26. On Zoom.
Speakers Chris Myers (Climate Pilgrim) & Ellen Teague (Columbans)
Everyone is welcome to attend Justice & Peace national networking meetings as an individual. You do not have to represent any particular group or diocese. Just book and come along!

14 November – Launch of the Laudato Si’ Platform 
The platform will officially launched on the World Day of the Poor.

17 November, 7-8pm: CAFOD COP26 Round up – What Did COP26 Achieve?’ With Neil Thorns and Robin Mace-Snaith. 
Hear a detailed report of the outcomes from the COP26 in Glasgow. You will have the opportunity to ask questions and listen to the latest discussions at the global united Nations summit about climate change and how countries are planning to tackle it.

20 November, 11am – 3.30pm (Arrivals from 10.30am) – RC Diocese of Southwark Justice and Peace Commission Autumn Assembly: ‘COP26: What next?’ 
Corpus Christi Catholic Church, Brixton Hill, London, SW2 5BJ.
What can we do that we aren’t doing now in response to care for the earth, care for the poor, care for a fairer economy? Entrance free.  Everyone welcome. Please bring a packed lunch.  Tea and coffee will be provided. Email to reserve your place.

A Prayer for COP26

As world leaders, journalists, activists and others arrive in Glasgow for COP26,
we pray for the events over the next 2 weeks.
We know that these conversations are crucial and urgent,
and we ask for your visible presence in guiding our leaders to wise and fair decisions.
We ask for your peace for all who are feeling expectant and emotional about these decisions.
Whether they’ve invested lots of time in campaigning,
or their communities are on the frontline of climate change.
We thank you Lord that we can trust in you when things feel overwhelming.

We look at the state of the world and we lament.

We look at your son Jesus and we have hope for eternity.

We look at your call for us to care for this Earth and our neighbours,
and we are stirred into action.

Thank you Lord that in your strength, we can hope for change.


Naomi-Ruth Bookless, YCCN Relay

Young Christian Climate Network (YCCN) and other pilgrimages arrive for COP26

1st November – Candlelit Prayer for COP26 and Other Climate Events

23 October, 11am-5pm – The Tablet Autumn Festival, On the Road to COP26. £23.00. Speakers include Ellen Teague, Lorna Gold, Austen Ivereigh, Andy Atkins, Christine Allen and Gordon Brown. Bookings

23 October – Pre-COP Vigil, Anglican Southwark Cathedral, 2.00-3.45pm. You are encouraged to make a pilgrimage on foot, by bike, by public transport, however you wish, from your place of worship – perhaps in a group – to Southwark Cathedral, London Bridge, SE1 9DA, arriving between 2 – 3pm. Bring a Letter for Creation to pass on to the faith leaders involved in COP. There will be interactive prayer stations from 2pm. At 3.20 we will come together for a time of prayer and reflection with singer Samantha Lindo and St Leonard’s Eco Church Community, ending with a blessing by the Bishop of Kingston. Register to attend in person: 
or Option to watch on livestream here

30 October, 2.30pm – Gathering of the different climate pilgrimages and walking through the Glasgow city: YCCN Relay, Camino to COP and international groups from Germany and Sweden. Meet at McLennan Arch, Glasgow Green. In person.

31 October, 2-3pm – Interfaith Scotland Service for COP26

1-12 November UN Climate Conference COP 26 in Glasgow UK COP26

1 November – 6pm (after 5.30pm Mass). Candle-lit Procession from Westminster Cathedral to Farm Street Church to pray for success of COP26. Organised by London Jesuit Centre, Jesuit Missions and Westminster Justice & Peace. Bring a candle you can carry safely. Some led lights will be provided. Refreshments at Farm Street Church on arrival. Sign up:

3-6 November – Jesuit Missions Pilgrimage Edinburgh to Glasgow. From Sacred Heart Church, Edinburgh, to SEC Centre, Glasgow. For 18-35s. Pilgrimage Chaplain – Fr Nick King SJ

5 November 11am – 24 Hours for the Climate – Online Vigil Livestreamed from Glasgow. Led by Justice and Peace Scotland

6 November – Global Day of Climate Action

6 November 11am – London Rally for Climate Action. Meet at St Mary Moorfields Church, 4-5 Eldon Street, London EC2M 7LS, where we will gather with CAFOD supporters before we join the main march outside the Bank of England. Wear a CAFOD T-shirt or something green! Bring a banner. Register to receive updates:

7 November, 4pm – Ecumenical Service for COP 26 St. Mungo’s Cathedral

14 November – Launch of the Laudato Si’ Platform on of the World Day of the Poor

20 November – RC Diocese of Southwark Justice and Peace Commission Autumn Assembly: ‘COP26: What next?’ Corpus Christi Catholic Church, Brixton Hill, London, SW2 5BJ. What can we do that we aren’t doing now in response to care for the earth, care for the poor, care for a fairer economy? Entrance free.  Everyone welcome. Please bring a packed lunch.  Tea and coffee will be provided. Email to reserve your place.

For updates on all Key Climate Dates click here

Faith communities urge PM to show leadership at COP26

Faith Campaigners outside the Houses of Parliament, 18 October 2021

Source: CAFOD

Representatives from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu faiths handed in a statement for the Prime Minister at No 10 Downing Street on Monday morning, saying he was in a “unique position to lead the world in tackling the climate crisis” with the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow less than two weeks away.

The statement highlighted calls from more than 75,000 people across faith communities urging Boris Johnson to show leadership by taking action to tackle the climate emergency in a way that is fair and just for those on the frontlines of the crisis. The statement will specifically call on the Prime Minister to:

  • Keep the 1.5C warming limit agreement alive.
  • Ensure rich countries meet commitments to meet and exceed $100bn in climate finance each year to countries hardest hit by the crisis.
  • End support for fossil fuels everywhere.

Participants included Rt Rev Olivia Graham (Anglican Bishop of Reading), Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg (Senior Rabbi, Masorti Judaism), Imam Emad Choudhury (Imam at Bahu Trust), Avnish Thakrar (National Coordinator, Hindu Climate Action) and Olivia Fuchs (Eco Dharma Network).

The event was organised by CAFOD, Christian Aid, World Vision, SCIAF, Tearfund, and the Faiths 4 Climate Justice network.