Faith groups gathered nearly 1,780,000 signatures from people of faith all over the world concerned about the climate and who want to take action. Over 800,000 of these were from Catholics around the globe expressing their united voices for urgent climate action through the climate petition spearheaded by the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM). The movement collected 840,000 signatures urging the UN to act on climate change.
This petition was presented to UN authorities and French officials last 29 November, in Saint Denis district, northern Paris, prior to the start of the climate talks. The climate petition calls on world leaders to “drastically cut carbon emissions to keep the global temperature rise below the dangerous threshold of 1.5 degrees C” and “to aid the world’s poorest in coping with climate change impacts.”
This is part of the largest collective interfaith event that brought together groups such as OurVoices, ACT Alliance, GreenFaith, and the blog of the CIDSE delegation in the climate talks in Paris, Change for the Planet (#Change4Planet).
Organizers estimate that around 400 pilgrims worldwide who walked from different countries to Paris witnessed the delivery of the faith-based signatures. Their presence and the many inspiring speeches delivered made the event very special and a lot of hope and positive energy were felt, CIDSE members shared.
This was also the perception garnered by Bertrand Heriard Dubreuil, director of CERAS, a centre of social analysis run by the Jesuits in Paris. He reflected that the participants in this pilgrim event are following a single path and that “only one message is heard for the poorest.” He also shared that even if there are no agreements or commitments reached, religions are preparing their faithful for what is about to come.
Bertrand refers to the speech of Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, OFM, who spoke to the crowds gathered in Saint Denis and who said that wealthier countries should be asked “to aid the world’s poorest countries to cope with climate change impacts by providing robust climate finance.” Cardinal Hummes also prayed for political leaders to be able to “hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (Laudato si’ 49) and to respond to the demand for climate justice from faith communities. (Cardinal Hummes is from Brazil is currently the President of the Pan-Amazonian Network/REPAM and we share his reflection on the interfaith petition, From Parish to Paris: Why the world’s faithful are asking for climate action.
Walkers and cyclists gathered at the Salle de la Légion d’honneur de Saint-Denis, opposite the Basilica of Saint-Denis, as the various faith petitions were handed over to political leaders meeting at COP21. There were signatories from over 135 countries with the largest number coming from the Philippines. Lou Arsenio from the Archdiocese of Manila explained that people from the Philippines “understand the moral impact of the fight against climate change in ways all too personal. We’ve already lost tens of thousands of lives to typhoons which over the years have increased in intensity and frequency. The petition is one way for us take action on Laudato si’ and our survival.”
Outside Paris, Catholics mobilized in historic numbers on every continent as part of the Global Climate March. Their efforts were boosted earlier this week when Vatican official Cardinal Peter Turkson released a letter encouraging every bishop in the world to support the Global Climate March “in prayer, word and action” and to invite the faithful and all others to “exercise their ‘ecological citizenship’” by joining local marches.
According to Tomás Insua, GCCM Global Coordinator, “climate change is a profound moral crisis and a matter of justice towards the poor and future generations” as Pope Francis reminds us. “That is why the Catholic community is mobilizing at a massive scale demanding climate justice, by collecting more than 800,000 climate petition signatures for world leaders in Paris and by joining the Global Climate March in all major cities around the world.”