Climate change pilgrims target UN COP21 Paris meeting

By staff writers
January 28, 2015

Thousands of people are planning to embark on a pilgrimage of climate justice – either on foot or on bicycles – across many parts of the world.

The pilgrims, rooted in their religious faith, want to express solidarity with those affected by climate change – urging world leaders to produce a legally binding and universal agreement on the climate at the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris.

Participants, mostly from Europe and Africa, are being mobilised by Christian organisations representing members of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

Some will end their journey in Paris, uniting their voices with other faith actors at the COP 21 to be held from 30 November to 11 December 2015.

“Paris is a milestone in our pilgrimage of climate justice,” said Dr Guillermo Kerber, WCC programme executive for Care for Creation and Climate Justice.

“Yet Paris is not a destination. As people of faith, expected to offer a moral compass to climate dialogue, we need to strategise for 2016 and beyond,” he added.

Dr Kerber was speaking in a COP 21 preparatory meeting for ecumenical organisations held last week in Geneva, Switzerland.

The concept of a “pilgrimage of justice and peace” is a vision promoted by the World Council of Churches 10th Assembly, and climate justice is a significant component of this vision, says its originators.

Following calls for climate justice by religious leaders such as Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church, the WCC is planning to bring strong voices from faith communities demanding a fair, ambitious and legally binding treaty in Paris, explained Dr Kerber.

In Africa the “pilgrims of climate justice” are planning to cross borders on foot and bicycles, raising awareness about the impact of climate change. Patriciah Akullo of the ACT Alliance, a partner organisation of the WCC, shared information about her organisation’s campaign for climate justice, coming into force around COP 21 with a focus on Africa.

She said that after crossing borders between South Africa, Uganda and Burundi among other countries, these pilgrims’ final destination will be Nairobi.

Public figures expected to add their voices to the campaign include Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, with others from the fields of sports, culture and music.

“Pilgrimage to COP 21 is a pilgrimage of justice and peace, for people and for earth,” said Isaiah Toroitich, working for the campaign Act Now for Climate Justice. “As people of faith we hope to speak in one united voice in Paris demonstrating our solidarity with those affected by climate change,” he said.

Thomas Hirsch from Bread for the World said that as people of faith “we are united in our diversity through our efforts and our pleas for climate justice to be heard at COP 21”.

The planning of initiatives from the churches, ecumenical organisations and their faith partners were called “motivating” by Hirsch. However, he said the “momentum of these efforts can go down if COP 21 is not able to deliver”.

The Christian organisations taking part in the Geneva preparatory meeting were the ACT Alliance, Conference of European Churches, Norwegian Church Aid, MISEREOR, Green Pilgrimage Network, Bread for the World, The Lutheran World Federation, Christian Aid, Secours Catholique, CIDSE and the CCFD-Terre Solidaire.

* WCC Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/what-we-do/pilgrimage-of-justice-and-peace

* WCC’s work on climate justice and care for creation: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/what-we-do/climate-change

* More on climate change from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/climatechange

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