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Faith communities have a massive presence at the COP26 Summit in Glasgow. Our Laudato Si’ Officer, Jane Mellett, reflects on the impact these communities are having on this critical conference.
COP26 is into its second week in Glasgow and one thing is for sure – faith communities have a massive presence here. People from all faiths have descended in an effort to raise their voices for our common home, and for the most vulnerable people in our world.
I’ve been attending many fringe events across the city over the past week which have highlighted to me the largest ever attendance of faith groups at a COP event.
For example 150,000 actions from various faith-based organisations were presented to the UN COP Presidency at St. George Tron Church in the heart of the city on Tuesday Nov 2nd. This “Faiths in Action Event” included the handover of the Healthy Planet, Healthy People petition, which Trócaire has partnered with, and which 120,000 people globally have signed over the past 6 months. Participants were reminded: “We need to act as if we believed that God created the world”.
Vigils are taking place every day outside the COP26 venue as people of various faith groups sit in silent contemplation, praying for the success of these critical climate negotiations. Hundreds of climate pilgrims have walked from various points across the UK and Europe to Glasgow.
On Saturday November 6th one of the largest climate marches in history took place here in terrible weather conditions. Torrential rain and gale force winds didn’t deter 125,000 people taking to the streets to raise their voices for climate justice.
At St. Aloysius Church we gathered with members of the Laudato Si’ Movement, Columban Missionaries, Justice and Peace Scotland and many pilgrims to walk together behind the #LiveLaudatoSi globe to the Faith Bloc meeting point in Kelvingrove Park. We sang Laudato Si’ o mi signore as we guided our battered world through the streets of Glasgow.
Thousands of people convened in the Faith Bloc carrying signs which read “Make this a fair COP”; “Love your global neighbour”; “Act justly, Love Tenderly and Walk Humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Spirits were high despite the rough conditions. We kept one another going, singing and chanting as we moved through the streets.
The determination of the participants at Saturday’s march is a sure sign of hope. Grassroots communities are responding to the warnings issued by the IPCC report last August and which flagged that climate change is a “code red for humanity”.
Speaking with many different pilgrims during this march, each had the same to say: “The time to act is now!” Faith based activists in Glasgow want details not empty promises on how this COP26 will deliver on targets such as limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and delivering on the $100 billion climate finance. Political will is one thing, action and plans are another.
The weekend of solidarity in Glasgow came to a close with the official COP26 Mass on Sunday morning at St. Aloysius Church. Three Laudato Si’ Bishops were in attendance – Bishop Martin Hayes from Ireland (Kilmore); Bishop John Arnold (Salford) and Bishop Bill Nolan (Galloway), as well as members from the Vatican delegation to COP26.
In his homily, Bishop Nolan (Chair of Justice & Peace Scotland) said: “We have heard the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor…We are all environmentalists now… but we must put our beliefs into practice.” He warned against just “painting ourselves greener than green” and urged the congregation to “combine our words and actions and respond to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.”
How the energy harnessed at COP26 will be translated into action at the grassroots is the challenge now set before us. For the Catholic community, the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, which will be launched by Pope Francis in November will be one practical way of getting involved. “Truly, much can be done!” (Laudato Si’ 180).