By Jessica Hall, Campaigns and Organising Officer
Recently I turned up at work to find that the local park had been transformed into what appeared to be a fully functioning festival site. Complete with solar panel powered stage, banners, colourful tents, a welcoming gazebo replete with volunteers in high vis jackets, oh, and about 15 police officers looking on. The mini festival-esque site was in fact the base for Extinction Rebellion’s summer uprising, a week of protest, proclamation of the climate crisis and non-violent direct action.
What’s usually a handy lunch spot down the road from Christian Aid’s London office was now housing activists as they went to and from actions across the city. It seemed natural to pop over and say hi to our new neighbours and fellow climate campaigners. Instead of offering the customary cup of sugar we asked if there was anything practical we could do to support them as part of the movement. With access to hot and cold water this seemed a practical place for us to start. So that’s what we did, in a simple act of welcome and support we made trips back and forth from the office with 5 litre water bottles and the odd thermos, refilling when required.
The practical became the prayerful as we made connection with Christian Climate Action during the week organising a small but beautiful prayer vigil. We shared stories of communities and activists from the Philippines and Ethiopia who are feeling the sharp end of climate breakdown right now, prayed that climate justice would be done, and spent time in silent meditation. I’ve not really been one to lead public prayer in the middle of a city park before, but I found it a powerful experience to pray and bear witness alongside brothers and sisters from the movement. After we said ‘Amen’ one person said, ‘thank you, this is what sustains me through our campaigning’. I think they had something there. Campaigning is going against the grain, pushing against systems and structures that perpetuate the climate crisis and lock people in poverty.
For us, to pray is as sustaining as the cup of water from one of those 5 litre bottles.
Here at Christian Aid we are fully supportive of the reasons behind Extinction Rebellion, we are facing an unprecedented climate emergency in which our sisters and brothers have seen their homes destroyed, had their lives wrecked and been displaced from their land. The climate crisis demands action.
Whether that be blocking roads, joining marches, lobbying MPs (as over 12,000 of us did on 26 June ), challenging ourselves (and our friends/family) to live more sustainably or taking part in public vigils, action is key. And all our actions count. At their best our collective actions can complement one another and the movement for climate justice will strengthen, until justice is done.
As a charity, Christian Aid itself may not be able to fully endorse all of Extinction Rebellion’s actions, but nonetheless we stand in solidarity and pray for all rebels and all climate activists around the world. And we join the calls of Extinction Rebellion for the UK Government to act in a way that is commensurate with the scale of the problem.
I personally hope we continue to find ways to be the cup of water, literal or prayerful, that can support and sustain climate rebels.
On October 7 as part of Extinction Rebellion's next uprising there will be a faith bridge in central London where people can share their prayers for a more just world: We've produced this short guide for how you can ensure your prayers are included (even if your miles from London)