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.
On the 1st October, beginning of the month of the Rosary and towards the end of the Season of Creation, a group of Laudato Si’ Animators gathered outside Westminster Cathedral before and after the 12.30 Mass.
The purpose was to pray and distribute prayer cards with artist Helen Elwes’ “Mother of Mercy” painting. Thanks to the efforts of Helen and Sr Zoe Leadbetter and the help of various benefactors a big number of these cards has been printed. The hope is that the distribution of this image will help stimulate our Catholic imagination and prayer for our wounded earth. The painting shows Mary, the Mother of Mercy, holding her mantle over all creation, including animals that have become extinct. In the background there are forest fires showing the damage we are doing to the earth. Leaflets about the climate and ecological emergency and the 40 days of prayer before the launching of the Laudato Si’ Action Platform (14th November 2021) were also handed out.
Helen Elwes writes
As an artist I have tried to express my grief for what we are doing to our precious planet in the language I know best – in my painting ‘Mother of Mercy’. It is a contemporary image of the ‘Madonna della Misericordia’ set in a landscape destroyed by fire with the burning rainforest in the distance.
Mary kneels with her blue cloak outstretched around the tree of life, protecting praying figures and endangered animals who take refuge beneath it.
Above her head are the words : ‘Mother of Mercy – Pray For Us’
I have painted it as a modern Icon to inspire prayer but have made it in the form of a banner to bring it out into the world as I feel this message is so urgent. It is a response to the climate and ecological emergency the world is now facing and inspired by Pope Francis’ powerful and visionary call to action in Laudato Si’.
Ellen Teague of the Columban JPIC Team spoke at Masses on 2nd/3rd October 2021 in Hanwell parish, West London, just before the Feast of St. Francis on 4th October. Her talk marked the end of the Season of Creation and suggested ways to continue parish work on climate change and “ecological conversion”.
May the Lord bless us all the days of our life, says today’s psalm. And not just our lives but the lives of our children’s children. These wonderful words written nearly 3,000 years ago inspire my work on Justice, Peace, Ecology issues for the Columban missionaries. Part of this will be representing them at the international UN climate summit in Glasgow in November – the COP26 that you are seeing in the media.
Pope Francis said this week, “every human being has a right to a healthy environment”. He was referring to protecting Planet Earth, our common home, from climate change. But what has prompted my own mission to care for creation?
As a lay missionary in Northern Nigeria in the early 1980s I saw farmers from Niger moving south to work because their farms in Niger had become desertified and prone to soil erosion. Back in Britain, I worked for CAFOD and helped collect funds for the great Ethiopia famine appeal of 1984. TV pictures showed poor people queuing for food aid amidst a dusty, oppressively hot environment. In the late 1980s I visited Sudan and will never forget witnessing a million people in a refugee camp near the city of Juba, displaced from their homes by drought, exacerbated by conflict, and sitting in a treeless, sun-baked plain completely reliant on humanitarian aid. I was awakened to what several popes have called an “ecological conversion”.
By the 1990s the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was proving that the stability of the world’s climate was being undermined by humanity dumping greenhouse gases into Earth’s atmosphere. Our planet was heating. Why? Energy and transport reliant on fossil fuels, extractive industries tearing up land to access minerals, industrial agriculture were all responsible, alongside raised standards of living in affluent countries such as ours which have literally devoured Earth’s natural resources. Structural issues have include third world debt which forced countries in the global south to destroy their rainforests and export the timber.
The saddest aspect has been that the weakest communities in the poorest countries, who have done least to cause global warming, have been worst affected. In 2007 I observed the Archdiocese of Manila in the Philippines hold a climate conference attended by over 2000 people – representation from every parish – because, with over half the parishes at or below sea level, they wanted to prepare for flooding caused by inundation from the rising ocean and for more severe weather. And they have had it in recent times. Fr. Sean McDonagh was the keynote speaker. The Filipino bishops said 20 years ago that, “the destruction of creation is sinful and contrary to the teachings of our faith.”
Today’s readings have a strong focus on marriage, family bonds and the rights of children but these relationships are sorely tested by the climate crisis which has torn families and communities apart. Two million people – mostly in the global south – have died as a result of a five-fold increase in weather-related disasters in our lifetimes. Climate refugees could reach 200 million by 2050. Humanity is increasingly on the move and the stability that families and communities need is in jeopardy. The time to act is now.
In 2015 Pope Francis produced his acclaimed environment encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ which is part of the teaching of the Church. It calls on Catholics and all people to heed the warnings of climate experts. “The climate is a good that must be protected” he said and asked us “to hear the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor”. Since then, we have seen increased wild fires, flooding and species extinction around the globe. The climate crisis cannot be ignored anymore, even by those of us not yet feeling the worst impacts.
There is much we can all do.
Tomorrow’s Feast of St. Francis reminds us to appreciate God’s beautiful creation – fresh air, clean water, nutritious food, green spaces, our animal companions. Reflect on your own way of life: avoid waste – especially food waste – conserve water and energy and protect local trees and hedgerows. Share wealth with the victims of climate change.
Hanwell is one of thousands of parishes of all Christian denominations which have celebrated the Season of Creation over the past month. And today, you can support the Climate Appeal of CAFOD. I have a table of resources at the back of the church for finding out more about engagement with COP26. Support your excellent parish Justice and Peace Group, which has raised awareness for many years. Consider becoming a Livesimply parish. And look out for refugees in Ealing and support them – for numbers will grow as people flee climate disasters. Support Westminster Diocese efforts to reduce its carbon footprint. Faith groups are divesting from fossil fuels, such as the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace in this parish.
Outside of your beautiful parish, in the local community, what about engaging with Hanwell Nature which has campaigned to protect the site of Warren Farm for its biodiversity. Did you know it has the only breeding skylark birds in Ealing? These beautiful birds are being conserved and are a blessing in our lives and the lives of our children’s children.
You can be involved nationally and internationally too. Christians are involved with climate justice because climate change affects most heavily communities least able to deal with it and on countries with low greenhouse emission rates, such as Bangladesh and Fiji. We should listen to our young people who demand a future of peace, green jobs and renewable energy. Young Christians have been walking from Cornwall to COP26 in Glasgow since June – a pilgrimage to raise awareness, pray with local churches, and eventually lobby world leaders converging on the city. They have reached Manchester this weekend.
Another aspect is that we owe respect to the rest of the natural world. Today’s first reading from Genesis speaks of God creating the animals and birds. God sees creation as very good. ‘Laudato Si’ presents a strong critique of modern consumerism which plunders and destroys the natural world. We need soil, trees, rivers and rainfall in order to survive and the Church is speaking out about this louder than it has ever done.
Pope Francis – a global moral beacon – will be speaking in Glasgow to push for urgent action on climate change. The Columbans are supporting him there and organising a 24-hour vigil on 6th-7th November in liaison with other Catholic groups such as Justice and Peace Scotland and the Jesuits in Scotland. CAFOD is organising events in Glasgow and London that same weekend.
You are invited to sign the ‘Healthy Planet, Healthy People’ Petition. Our Columbans UK website, Facebook and Twitter are updated daily with news of the Catholic response to justice, peace and ecology issues. Details in our latest newsletter at the back. We will help you play your part in lobbying for a successful UN climate summit in November.
Ordinary people like you and me can make a huge difference. At the very least we can identify the habits that have harmed our environment globally and realign as individuals and community to what will keep our society and our environment healthy. This gives everybody hope.
May the Lord indeed bless us all the days of our lives as we follow the Church in promoting justice, peace and “ecological conversion”.
A prayer vigil was held at the Home Office at noon on 5th October, in remembrance of the many refugees and migrants who have drowned in the Channel and in support of those forced to attempt the perilous crossing to England. Campaigners called for safe legal routes for refugees forced to to flee their countries to apply for asylum.
Tributes were also given to the mostly unpaid volunteer Royal National Lifeboat Institution crews, who selflessly serve to rescue all who need their help at sea. Barbara Kentish organised this moving event.
It was a grey drizzly day with the sun peeking out occasionally as Home Office staff came and went. The participants conveyed a sense of joy, respect, and purpose as they prayed and sang hymns together. Moving testimonies were read from the crew members of RNLI of their encounters with exhausted, desperate individuals trying to navigate the Channel’s shipping lanes in flimsy inflatable dinghies, ill-equipped to deal with the challenge. Lifeboat crews are committed to saving lives no matter who is at risk, putting politics aside.
There were placards, a baby and a “birthday girl” who had ridden her bike for more than an hour to join the group! Ann Jones, who volunteers at the Catholic Worker and Caritas, was 80 years old that morning and she said there was no better way to start her birthday! And she brought homemade brownies to share!
Thomas Caddick, from Catholic Worker, said he participated in the Home Office action, because he opposes the extreme threat and devastation deportation poses to extremely vulnerable people.
Brother Johannes Maertens, shared that the focus isn’t what we accomplished, it was being present in prayer for people. “We are reminding ourselves and others that refugees are in danger because of the policies that are made in this building…we need to pray for victims who are affected by these policies as well as the people who make the policies in this country…trying to grow together for a better humanity, to be more humane…to be a sign for people here, to be present for all to see, to stand in front of God to testify for humanity…”
Barbara’s prayer vigil was an inspiring blend of reality and hope, of justice and peace. Ben Beno’s poem will have the last word…
A refugee, a refugee, Lord, into you I flee. A refugee, a refugee, O Lord, my refuge be.
Bend down and hear. my prayer. Come near. Save and deliver me. My rock and wall, a stronghold tall, my fortress you will be.
A refugee, a refugee, Lord, into you I flee. A refugee, a refugee, O Lord, my refuge be.
Then stay the hand of those who plan tp grasp and wreck and crush. Come rescue me, Come set me free.
The World Day for Migrants and Refugees was marked on Dover Seafront by Bishop Paul McAleenan and a gathering of supporters on Saturday 25th September at midday.
Barbara Kentish, Refugee and Migrants lead for the Westminster Justice and Peace Commission, gave a reflection at the service and is campaigning against the proposed Nationality and Borders Bill, currently making its way through Parliament. Barbara writes:
Now, more than ever, we call on our faith to resist the draconian immigration law currently being discussed in Parliament. The example of migrants’ faith is so inspiring, as is the groundswell of public goodwill, such as we see from the RNLI. Many Councils are also agreeing to take families. Our country can be so much better than the spirit of the Nationality and Borders Bill demonstrates.
Ben Bano, from Seeking Sanctuary, also attended the service and writes:
The well known hymn ‘Eternal Father strong to save’ is frequently associated with military parades and services, but it was a particularly apt choice when we gathered on the Dover seafront for a service on the eve of the World Day for Migrants and Refugees which included a blessing of the sea led by the local parish priest Fr Jeff Cridland.
As we looked out to the sea, it was an opportunity for the 25 people gathered from local churches and faith communities to remember the dangers of the English Channel for migrants and their families in their desperate searches for sanctuary.
The service which was organised by ‘Seeking Sanctuary’ was led by Bishop Paul McAleenan, lead Bishop of the Catholic Church in England and Wales for migrants and refugees, who reminded us of the Christian duty to provide a humane and welcoming attitude to those who attempt to reach our shores having suffered poverty violence and persecution.
Alongside the memorial to migrants who have lost their lives seeking safety we remembered the powerful words of Pope Francis, ‘Every migrant has a name, a face and a story’.
‘Seeking Sanctuary’ aims to raise awareness about people displaced from their homes and to channel basic humanitarian assistance from Faith Communities and Community Organisations via partnerships with experienced aid workers. Our special concern is for the 2000 or so exiles who are stuck in north-western France, mistakenly expecting a welcome in the UK.
They need food, water, good counsel and clothes, which are accepted, sorted and distributed by several organisations, including two Calais warehouses which also supply needs further afield. Contact Ben Bano on 07887 651117 or Phil Kerton on 01474 873802 for ways to help.
Chris Carling gave this reflection during the Young Christian Climate Network relay walkers service in Westminster Cathedral on Friday:
Daniel 3:57-81, 88-89
Song of the Three Young Men in the Furnace
That Canticle from Daniel sums up how God calls us to cooperate with creation to bless the Lord, to give glory and eternal praise to him. This is what God meant when in Genesis he gave dominion over the earth – not that we dominate or destroy the planet but that we care for creation, we till this earth.
However, humanity has sinned, we have turned away from God and we need conversion; ecological conversion. Like our constant spiritual conversion, this is a process not an event, it will last a lifetime. And it is always the work of the Holy Spirit.
In Romans 5:20 we are told ‘where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more’. Right now humanity’s sin against creation and against our creator is indeed increasing. The canticle proclaims ‘Ice and Snow, bless the Lord’ yet we are melting the ice caps and the glaciers retreat. ‘Seas and Rivers, bless the Lord’, yet we fill the waters with plastic. ‘Everything that grows on earth, bless the Lord’ and we cut down the rainforests. Our sin is increasing, but we do not despair because we are Christian and we have hope. We know that grace will overflow.
Grace is indeed already overflowing in this relay and in the YCCN. Young people filled with the Holy Spirit coming together at this ‘decade defining’ moment to share the call to care for creation. Already 300 miles in, they have touched hundreds of communities by their presence, and countless more by their prayer. Grace is overflowing.
That same grace is overflowing in the young Catholics represented here from CAFOD, CARITAS, Jesuit Missions and others. Knowing, like the YCCN, that climate change affects the world’s poorest, they are helping those most affected by the current crisis to take action. CAFOD are doing excellent work lobbying parliament: already 100 MPs have met with Catholic parishes and Christian groups through their ‘parliament in your parish’ initiative. They are also running key petitions to our Prime Minister and Chancellor. Jesuit Missions are taking practical action such as by supporting reforestation efforts by communities in Madagascar. The Holy Spirit is moving in these groups as they respond to the call for ecological conversion.
Our Pope, at 84 may not be young, but he is a wise prophet on this question. This man filled with the Holy Spirit is reaching millions. His encyclical, Laudato Si’ – Praise Be – a letter to the whole world, written six years ago, is becoming ever more relevant by the day. This Diocese of Westminster has heard his call and has just committed to seeking carbon neutrality by 2030. We know the Pope’s voice matters: at COP 21 his words moved nations and were key to the agreement there. We pray, his health permitting, he can come to Glasgow and move nations again.
Because this call to ecological conversion needs to spread. Thinking of our government, it is perhaps easy to despair; new oil fields being considered off the Shetlands, a second private jet for ministers. Yet there is hope, hope in this conference in Glasgow, hope that grace will overflow. Our government, our Prime Minister -married in this very chapel a few months ago- the delegates, we pray they are filled with the Holy Spirit at COP and hear the call to ecological conversion.
Conversion too is a theme on this great Feast of the Transfiguration. I resonate especially with St Peter who, on seeing our Lord transfigured ‘brilliantly white’ before him on the mountain turned to Jesus and said: ‘Rabbi … it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah’. It seems he wanted to stay in the presence of our transfigured Lord.
It too is wonderful for us to see the Lord transfigured on this relay. To see him transfigured in each other, hope transfigured in young Christians responding to the call for ecological conversion. For those lucky enough to have taken this relay into the city or who will take it out again, it is wonderful to see our Lord transfigured in creation. I think of the beauty of Devon and Cornwall and the walkers who will cross the Pennines before eventually reaching the Northumberland Coast. It is indeed wonderful to be here with our transfigured Lord.
However like St Peter, we too must come down from the mountain. He went on to experience his own journey of conversion. Denying our Lord three times during the passion, before experiencing the grace and mercy of the resurrection. He lived his vocation taking the Gospel, the Good news, the message of conversion to the ends of his world, to Antioch and Rome.
As we come away from this relay, how will we respond to the call to spread the message of ecological conversion? How will we cooperate with creation to give glory and eternal praise to God? As humanity’s sin against creation and against our creator increases, how will grace overflow in us?
Chris Carling is a Communications Volunteer with Westminster Justice and Peace Commission. He has recently completed a European Social and Political Studies BA at University College London.
Members of the Young Christian Climate Network (YCCN), on pilgrimage from June’s G7 in Cornwall to November’s COP26 in Glasgow, had a great welcome from churches in and around London while passing through these past few days. Services and meetings at St Paul’s Cathedral – where they were greeted by Anglican Bishop John Sentamu – St John’s Waterloo, Lambeth Palace, Wesley’s Chapel, St Martin in the Fields and St James Piccadilly included a gathering for action, prayer, and reflection in Westminster Cathedral.
As around 100 people gathered in the piazza of Westminster Cathedral on Friday afternoon, waiting to go in, the line ups for photos demonstrated both Catholic and ecumenical support for the pilgrimage. Four Westminster Diocesan priests attended, including the current Chair of Westminster Justice and Peace, Fr Dominic Robinson SJ, and former one, Fr Joe Ryan. Alongside the YCCN banners there was Westminster Justice and Peace, CAFOD, Caritas, Pax Christi, Jesuit Mission, Columban JPIC, and ARocha. “What do we want? Climate justice!” echoed round Victoria.
When we walked down to the Lady Chapel we saw that the YCCN boat had been set up on the altar. The relay is accompanied along the whole route by this boat whose sail bears fabrics from climate threatened places – pointing to the hundreds of millions of people whose lives are threatened by sea level rise, cyclones, and other climate related disasters. It sat well alongside the chapel’s decoration where above the altar is the Tree of Life (the Cross) and from it gushes fountains of living water; its branches produce vines and refuge for birds and other living creatures.
Colette Joyce of Westminster Justice and Peace welcomed the congregation, followed by testimonies from Florence, Sophie and Naomi, three of the walkers. They explained the reasons for the relay. Pilgrims are calling on the government to meet and exceed their own climate finance commitments, reinstate the original aid budget and to cancel the debts of poor countries. The pilgrims also seek to raise awareness of COP26 and urged participants to spread the word “to look out for us and we would like as many people to join us as possible”. They were clapped as they stepped down amidst an animated and joyful spirit in the very chapel where Prime Minister Boris Johnson – the primary target for climate lobbying – was married at the end of May.
After a prayer of thanks, taken from the song of the three young men in the furnace in the Book of Daniel, a reflection on “ecological conversion” was given by Chris Carling, a student and Westminster Justice and Peace volunteer. He felt the ecological conversion called for in Laudati Si’ is a process that lasts a lifetime. Despite such challenges as the melting ice caps and polluting the oceans with plastic, “grace will overflow with YCCN”. Then a reflection from Pope Francis calling on each person to “be a guardian of our common home,” and protect all God’s creation, including other species.
We said together the final prayer from CAFOD:
“Inspire us to care for the environment:
to help rebuild lives and communities;
to share in the griefs and anxieties, joys and hopes of all your people,
so that all your creation may flourish. Amen.
The pilgrimage has been very successful in drawing attention to God’s presence in the world, particularly to people and places which are the first victims of the climate crisis. Anglican ordinand Hannah Malcom based her Saturday morning Radio 4 Thought for the Day reflection on it.
The young people have travelled through Truro, Exeter, Bristol, Reading and London, being received enthusiastically and offered hospitality by churches of all denominations, and are now heading north towards Glasgow.
Colette Joyce rounded off the service by telling the pilgrims, “you are doing a tremendous job and we will follow you all the way.” More clapping!
Around 100 Young Christian Climate Network relay walkers arrived in London last Wednesday on their way from Cornwall to Glasgow for COP26. They were welcomed by faith communities – and accompanied on their trek – as they stopped for ecumenical services and actions across the capital.
Their first service of prayer for climate justice was held at the Silver Eco Church, St Paul’s Clapham, and included a talk from a local YCCN member; followed by a meal and celebration in the churchyard.
Next morning they walked to Lambeth Palace where they stopped for refreshments and a tour of the gardens. From there they went on to St Paul’s Cathedral, where they were welcomed by Archbishop John Sentamu and took part in a vigil and photo call with Christian Aid.
On Friday they gathered in Arrupe Hall in Farm Street Church for lunch and then prayers and a blessing from parish priest Fr Dominican Robinson SJ in the church, before they set off through the parks for a picture op with CAFOD partners outside Buckingham Palace.
From here they walked to Westminster Cathedral where they were welcomed and joined by more supporters, for an Ecumenical service in the Lady Chapel. Among the congregation, were Pax Christi members who had been holding a Hiroshima Day vigil in the Piazza earlier in the day.
That evening the YCCN walkers went to St Andrew’s Church Short Street London SE1 where they from Hannah Eves about YCCN’s plans for COP26 and their work on climate justice, and from Canon Giles Goddard.
On Saturday morning the group attended Morning Prayer in Wesley’s Chapel and Leysian Mission in City Road followed by tea and cakes – Watch the service here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1J5sqrtTK
On Sunday morning the walkers attended a climate-themed service at St Martin-in-the-Fields, in Trafalgar Square. Lunch was a picnic at St James’ Church Piccadilly.
The new week begins on Monday with 9am prayers at All Hallows by the Tower Church, Byward Street. All are welcome to joined the walkers as they pray for a good outcome to the talks in Glasgow, and for urgent action to combat climate change and safeguard the earth.
St James, Muswell Hill will be the last stop in London for the YCCN team before they set off for Oxford. All are welcome to join them for a climate themed service at 6pm with Wave Church. Wave Church is an inclusive space where people with and without learning disabilities can worship together. It will be inclusive informal and creative. Expect singing with Makaton signing and Bible teaching using pictures and games.
Hundreds of young people are joining the YCCN relay walk to Glasgow – either for a single leg or for a few days. If you’d like to get involved or follow them as they continue their trek to Glasgow for COP26, visit their website here: www.yccn.uk
The chant: “We come together for our common home”, ran through the liturgies at this year’s annual conference of the National Justice and Peace Network of England and Wales (NJPN). It attracted 200 participants to Derbyshire for the first face to face meeting of Justice and Peace activists from every diocese since the pandemic started. The line came from a new hymn written by liturgical musician Marty Haugen especially for the conference, which took the theme, ‘2021: Moment of Truth – Action for Life on Earth’.
A music group led by Colette Joyce, Justice and Peace Co-ordinator in Westminster Diocese, and including pianist Christine Allen Director of CAFOD and Columban co-worker James Trewby on the clarinet, reflected the broad range of participants seeking to mobilise for the November COP26 climate talks in Glasgow. Also, to promote ecological conversion and action in the Church and wider society, all inspired by the papal encyclical Laudato Si’.
Conference chair Christine Allen reminded the gathering that there are now 100 days to COP26 and CAFOD is working with the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) and faith leaders to lobby for global warming to be kept below 1.5 degrees. She reported that CAFOD, “amplifies voices around the world in climate vulnerable situations”. Bishop John Arnold of Salford, lead bishop on the environment for England and Wales, said Churches and faiths are making clear they want action. He has been in zooms with COP26 president Alok Sharma MP, “trying to speak loudly to politicians”. He thanked NJPN “for who you are, what you stand for and what you want, and for keeping Pope Francis as an inspiration in our lives and actions.” “It is important to acknowledge the truth of the crisis of our common home,” he said.
Fr P Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam SDB, Coordinator of the ‘Ecology and Creation’ sector of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, told the conference in a video message: “the planet is crying out and the poor are crying out; we need to open our ears and hear these painful cries.” He felt there is hope and that “this could be a watershed, a moment of change.” He told NJPN that, “you can count on the support of our Dicastery as we work together under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as families, parishes, communities, institutions, to heal and protect mother Earth.”
Keynote speaker Lorna Gold, Chair of the Board of the GCCM and author of ‘Climate Generation: Awakening to Our Children’s Future’, highlighted the “vibrant network of networks sustaining and nurturing ecological conversion right across the world” and turning Laudato Si’ “into a lived reality.” She applauded the role young people have played in stimulating climate action. “Young people have done more in two years than the rest of us have done over three decades” she said. Lorna felt the pandemic is teaching us that we are all connected to each other and to nature and what it means to act together to face a common threat. She felt Pope Francis’ vision of ecological conversion refers to “community conversion” and asked: “What if that process of community ecological conversion was to extend to the entire world of faith communities that still encompass 80% of the world’s population?”
Andy Atkins, head of Arocha UK, underlined how far Churches have come with programmes such as Live Simply, Eco Church, Eco Congregation, Climate Sunday and Fossil Fuel Divestment with Operation Noah. In fact, more than 5000 churches across the denominations are registered with green schemes which “was unimaginable 30 years ago” but “we need to speed up.” He deplored the UK government’s loss of credibility to deal with the crises facing us. “At a time when the government says it is leading the world it has cut its aid budget and has opened the door to fossil fuel development,” he lamented; “we should be saying No More Fossil Fuel Exploitation in This Country!” Lorna felt the 20 October announcement of fossil fuel divestment should include the 18 Catholic dioceses on England and Wales that have not yet announced divestment.
Speaker Mark Rotherham, of the Northern Diocese Environmental Group, felt it essential we transform our current economic system so that it promotes both social equality and environmental protection. “A good life sustaining economy is about slowly down and recognising planetary boundaries” he said. He described the arms industry as “a huge shadow over our nation” and felt that we need to withdraw legitimacy from this draw on global resources and energy.
There was so much more, from Fr Eamonn Mulcahy CSSp developing a critique of anthropocentrism and the technocratic paradigm, taken from Laudato Si’, to NJPN Chair Paul Southgate teaching the conference a Navajo hymn of praise! Young university and school students told the conference they would like “less of fossil fuel companies pretending to care and schools accepting money from them”. They called for Catholics “to challenge the increasingly hostile policy towards refugees”, many of whom are victims of our actions in arms trading and raising global temperatures. One highlighted “the detachment of our education system from real life” and the attitude that “the more money we have the more successful we are.”
An action planning session at the end included dioceses forming Laudato Si’ Action Platform groups, organising Climate Sunday Masses, promoting the Live Simply programme in parishes and schools, and urging divestment from fossil fuels. Columbans and Salesians are among those arranging a 24-hour prayer vigil on 5 November that parishes can join, with intentions fed in from around the world. Many dioceses plan to connect with the Young Christian Climate Network (YCCN) pilgrimage to Glasgow and the Camino to COP26, setting off in September.
There were more than 20 stalls in the ‘Just Fair’ and around 15 workshops on such topics as: ‘Sustainable Development Goals,’ ‘Conflict and Environment,’ and a ‘Nature Explorer Walk’ with a botanist. Justice and Peace Scotland gave a briefing around ‘Attendance at COP26 – real or virtual’.
Since 2005, NJPN has regularly taken an environmental theme for the national conference and its Environment Working Group, formed that year, helped plan the 2021 conference.
Father Tom O’Brien, Parish Priest of Our Lady Immaculate and St Andrew, Hitchin, and member of Westminster Justice and Peace Commission, gave the following address at the online interfaith service to mark the start of London Climate Action Week “Take Care for our common home” on 27th June 2021.
Coming together as we are today, united in a passionate concern for our common home and sharing our insights and beliefs, is precisely what Pope Francis wanted to happen when, in 2015, he wrote a letter to everyone in the world called Laudato Si or Praise be to you. Recognising that we face a catastrophic crisis, Pope Francis publicly proclaimed and clarified our deep concern for the destruction happening to our planet. He also recognised that this crisis can only be addressed together and globally. Whatever our differences of faith or of non-faith, we are all united in our growing concern for the future of our planet. The letter spells out the challenges we face clearly and succinctly and also recognises that we need to act now before it’s too late.
We believe that God called us to be stewards of creation which Pope Francis summarises as cultivating, ploughing, working, as well as caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving the natural world. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature. Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations. It is a call to work with a creation that is only too willing to work with us.
The letter recognises that: “We urgently need a humanism capable of bringing together the different fields of knowledge, including economics, in the service of a more integral and integrating vision. Today, the analysis of environmental problems cannot be separated from the analysis of human, family, work related and urban contexts, nor from how individuals relate to themselves, which leads in turn to how they relate to others and to the environment” (#141).
Throughout the letter care for the earth is conjoined with care for the poor. They are indispensably connected. Laudato Si: “The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation. In fact, the deterioration of the environment and of society affects the most vulnerable people on the planet: ‘Both everyday experience and scientific research show that the gravest effects of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest'” (#48).
Our exploitation and abuse of the resources of the earth have led to increased Tsunamis, a continuing global rise in temperature that affects climate in a way that the poor, who depend on the land for sustenance, face long term droughts leading to a lack of clean water and starvation (25,000 a day, UN). Seeking survival leads them into underpaid jobs in which they are exploited, their basic rights are ignored and their freedom denied, so that we can have cheaper food and cheaper clothes to which they have no access. Laudato Si states There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself. There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology” (#118).
We are called to an inner conversion to a radical change in lifestyle, to living more simply, being less wasteful, to recycle and re-use, to be more generous to those in need. We must urgently lobby the government not to decrease our overseas support aid and even increase it.
Some of the fastest growing businesses in America are in energy efficiency and renewable energy helping produce the same output for half the energy.”
Businesses, who promote sustainability through the supply chain, have reduced their costs. They see pollution as a form of waste.
An organization that doesn’t waste anything is proved to be more efficient and more profitable.
Young people, led by the likes of Greta Thunberg, are calling for and fighting for a radical reduction in Co2 emissions. The recent G7 meeting has committed to fading out the use of fossil fuels and investing in renewable energy.
Being positive and hopeful is actually an important way to combat climate change. “We must look toward our positive shared future. The more we articulate the ability to get to that place, the more likely we are to get there.”
Expression of Hope;
Encouragingly, in Laudato Si, Pope Francis adds:
“Yet all is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing what is good, and making a new start, whatever their mental and social conditioning. We are able to take an honest look at ourselves, to acknowledge our deep dissatisfaction, and to embark on new paths. No system can completely suppress our openness to what is good, true and beautiful. I appeal to everyone throughout the world not to forget this dignity which is ours. No one has the right to take it from us. (#205)”
This was the first time London Climate action week had held an interfaith service and it was organised by South London interfaith group and Faiths Forum for London. Among the wide range of speakers there was humanist Richard Norman and pagan Robin Horne. Dr Ruth Valerio of Tearfund, Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Zahra Kanani from Streatham mosque, Zoroastrian Vista Khosravi, Robert Harrap General director of SGI-UK, Sikh Balbir Singh Bakshi and Jain Varsha Dodhia all spoke about what there faith teaches about Creation and some of the practical actions their communities have undertaken. Bishop Karowei Dorgu, Anglican Bishop of Woolwich spoke about Southwark as an eco-diocese and what parishes are doing.