Melanie, a mother of four and member of All Saints church, from East Sheen, London reflects on her new found activism and why her faith motivated her to join Extinction Rebellion.
As I walked across Waterloo Bridge on my way home from work on my 58th birthday I stopped to watch people, many of them identifying themselves as Christians, sitting on the bridge peacefully and lovingly offering themselves up for arrest, being the voice of those without a voice, blocking the bridge on behalf of the powerless in order to make the powerful take notice.
As I stood taking photos I was filled with the sense that God was asking me not to be a spectator and so I walked past the police lines and into actively being God’s hands and feet in this broken but beautiful world.
This new found activism was and still feels unexpected and awkward. I am a mother of four, teach in Sunday school and work as a lawyer in the field of child welfare. For more than two decades I have tried to love God’s children as Christian Aid supporter. For as many years I have desperately wanted those with government and corporate power to act on the understanding that climate change is destroying people’s lives and wrecking their homes. I want them to act to stop the Pacific Islands -where I grew up - from disappearing as sea levels rise. I have signed petitions, joined marches and lobbied politicians to act. Although progress was far too slow, the idea of direct action was so far from my comfortable life that I never even thought about it.
And then on that beautiful day in April this year God put me in the path of Extinction Rebellion and Christian Climate Action. In less than two weeks from now I will be back on a bridge, this time on a bridge of faith, risking arrest to plead for action to protect the world’s poorest people from the bleak reality of further temperature rises.
Children of the world face a bleak future if we do not take immediate action to turn back from the climate and biodiversity breakdown we have brought to God’s creation. I have to admit that it scares me, this prickly new role directly challenging the status quo, but as a person of faith I can do nothing less. In June this year the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights published a report that said that even if current targets to limit the climate breakdown are met, tens of millions of people will be impoverished, leading to widespread displacement and hunger. The most severe impacts will be in the places poor people live and work, pushing more than 120 million more people into poverty by 2030. These are my brothers, my sisters and my children. They are responsible for just a fraction of global carbon greenhouse gas emissions, yet they will bear the brunt. They have little power to protect themselves, and less voice. God has asked me to be their voice. I am humbled and grateful that my voice is amplified by so many wonderful people in Extinction Rebellion whose core values sit so closely with my faith values: "We have a shared vision of change —creating a world that is fit for generations to come.”
For me the multi-Faith Bridge we’re creating as part of Extinction Rebellion’s October protest will be a grace-filled space, a place where we can pray and contemplate and speak out together and from where God can put our sacred intentions to best use. If you cannot physically be with us, pray for us and for our message. If you want to send a symbol of your prayer, there are instructions for creating and sending prayer flags here.