Sun, Apr 14, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Christian faithful are taking up climate protest

Faith groups are pushing action on climate change by pulling their investments out of fossil fuels, championing efforts to cut food waste and raising awareness about climate risks

By Shannon Larson  /  Thomson Reuters Foundation, LONDON

Illustration: Louise Ting

Cloaked in black and carrying white buckets filled with artificial blood, the group filed in silence behind a troupe of child and teen protesters to the entrance of London’s Downing Street.

Ringing a bell as they walked, the 45 adults — all participants in Extinction Rebellion, a protest movement seeking rapid action to curb global warming — formed an arc facing the British prime minister’s residence and poured out their buckets, turning the surrounding road into a sea of red.

They said that the liquid symbolized “the blood of our children,” which would be on the hands of politicians who have failed to act on climate change and stem its effects, from worsening floods and droughts to growing poverty and water and food shortages.

Among those at the protest in last month were three members of Christian Climate Action, a small group of retirees and students who said that their religious faith compelled them to take an increasing role in trying to stop climate change.

Climate change “is leading to a social collapse. We need to respond in more caring and collective ways,” said Phil Kingston, 83, a Catholic from Bristol, England, who took a train to London to participate in the Downing Street demonstration.

As climate change protests pick up in London and around the world, they are drawing an increasingly broad range of protesters, from students following in the footsteps of 16-year-old Swedish “school strike” leader Greta Thunberg to grandparents concerned about the growing risks that their grandchildren face.

Religious groups — from Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim and other faiths — are among those joining the protests, out of concern, in some cases, over the moral and spiritual implications of human-driven climate change.

Christian Climate Action took shape about six years ago, initially with just a handful of members from a range of Christian denominations, said Ruth Jarman, 55, one of the group’s original members.

However, as the group has become involved with Extinction Rebellion — an emerging movement that uses nonviolent protest to demand action on climate change — interest in the Christian action group has grown, especially among the younger generation, members said.

“Finding Extinction Rebellion really fitted in with our values so well. It’s very clear on using nonviolence, being motivated by values of love and care, rather than anger,” said Jarman, who lives in Hampshire, England.

Since November last year, Christian Climate Action advocates have disrupted traffic; spray-painted government buildings with political messages and the Extinction Rebellion hourglass symbol; blockaded entrances — and prayed for action, Jarman said.

An Anglican parishioner, she has been arrested five times for those protests — a risk not all Christians are willing to take, she said.

However, “for me, it’s the first verse of the Bible that hits home: If God created all that is, what does it mean for us to be destroying it?” she said.

“For us to be participating in its destruction is sacrilegious — not something believing Christians should be doing,” she added.

Faith groups, in Britain and around the world, have taken a growing role in pushing action on climate change, with some churches, mosques and temples pulling their investments out of fossil fuels, championing efforts to cut food waste and raising awareness about climate risks.

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