29 November 2015 - Climate campaigners mobilised by Christian Aid, Tearfund, CAFOD and the Church of England marked the end of their 200-mile ‘Pilgrimage2Paris’ yesterday by joining faith leaders and pilgrims from across the world, to deliver petitions with nearly 1.8 million signatures to the UN climate chief.
The British pilgrims joined forces with hundreds of other campaigners for the ‘Faith in Climate Justice’ event in Saint-Denis, northern Paris, to witness the delivery of a collection of faith-based petitions signed by 1,780,528 million people worldwide who want to see decisive climate action at the COP21 summit, which begins on Monday.
The petitions were received in person by the executive secretary of the UNFCCC (United Nations Frameworks for the Convention on Climate Change), Christiana Figueres and Special Envoy of the French President for the Protection of the Planet, Nicolas Hulot.
Ms Figueres was moved to tears by the occasion. She thanked the thousands of people who had walked, cycled and marched worldwide to express solidarity with communities hit by climate-related impacts and to urge leaders to seal a fair, ambitious and binding deal that curbs global warming and helps poor countries adapt to their changing climate.
She said: “I would like to thank you for your messages, for almost 2 million signatures, for your walking, for your praying, for your singing, for being who you are… There were people walking in every continent, making a total of 280,000km: that is the equivalent of having walked seven times around the world.
"I want to thank you for every single step, because with every step you have shown that it is possible to treat lightly in this our beautiful planet.”
Christine Allen, Director of Policy and Public Affairs for Christian Aid, described the event as “moving, emotional and uplifting”. She said: “Six years ago our hopes were dashed in Copenhagen. But as Christians we are called to be a people of hope – and hope is something that I’ve felt absolutely abundantly and tangibly today.
“Seeing and being with pilgrims who have come from all across the world – the Philippines group, the African cyclists, and friends from different churches across Britain – was an amazing feeling. And seeing the emotion of Christiana Figueres today has touched us all.
“1.78 million signatures is not an insignificant voice to bring to the table. So I want to say thank you to supporters of Christian Aid, the Church of England, Tearfund and CAFOD, and to everyone else who has campaigned, who has written to their politicians, who has prayed, who has fasted and who has been involved.
“We come as people of faith, people of hope, bringing a moral imperative to these negotiations, to say: ‘Yes, we want a legally binding agreement, we want fairness: but at the heart of this, we want the voices of people who are suffering the effects of climate change, here and now, to be heard. And the pilgrims really did bring those voices alive today.’”
Archbishop of Cape Town the Most Rev Dr Thabo Makgoba, global climate ambassador for ACT Alliance, handed over the petitions on behalf of the campaigns, saying: “Climate change is a spiritual and moral issue… the poorest who are the most affected by it have contributed the least toward it. This is unjust.
"We call on our leaders to be bold and to deliver a fair and just climate change agreement that prevents the catastrophic consequences of climate change. We can do it, we must do it, we will do it together.”
The petitions were the culmination of a joint effort from various faith-based networks worldwide. Together with the British Christian agencies, signatures were gathered by groups such as the Global Catholic Climate Movement, Act Now For Climate Justice (part of ACT Alliance), Oxfam Africa, the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance, OurVoices, Religions for Peace, and Islamic Relief
As well as live music and film screenings, the ‘Faith in Climate Justice’ event featured short addresses by several representatives, including the Bishop of Saint-Denis Pascal Delannoy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes of Brazil and the former chief climate negotiator for the Philippines, Yeb Sano, walked from Rome to Paris with the People’s Pilgrimage.
Earlier in the day, the pilgrims, campaigners, faith leaders and local people were among several hundred people who packed the Basilica of Saint-Denis for an inter-faith ‘spiritual moment’ held in recognition of the recent attacks on Paris and the upcoming climate talks.
Addressing the congregation at the service, Bishop of Dudley the Rt Rev Graham Usher said: “Just as faith leaders have stood together and prayed for the injured and mourning of this city’s recent terrorist atrocities, hundreds of faith leaders have stood together by signing the Lambeth Declaration on Climate Change that calls for the path of virtue and a legally-binding commitment here in Paris, for the sake of all those who share this world today and those who will share it tomorrow.”
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Notes to editors:
1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 40 countries at any one time. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.
2. Christian Aid’s core belief is that the world can and must be changed so that poverty is ended: this is what we stand for. Everything we do is about ending poverty and injustice: swiftly, effectively, sustainably. Our strategy document Partnership for Change explains how we set about this task.
3. Christian Aid is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development. Further details at http://actalliance.org
4. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire
5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid visit http://www.christianaid.org.uk