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Franciscans ‘Speak up for the love of …’ at the Mass Climate Change lobby at Parliament

Br Hugh writes:

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Religious, who work together through Justice and Peace Links, after the service in St Margaret’s, with Big Ben in the background.

On 17th June thousands came to the Houses of Parliament to speak to their MPs about climate change. Franciscans of the First and Third Orders were among them. Hilfield Friary Community members Jonathan and Daniel came with me with a coach group from Dorset, while Sr Maureen came from Metheringham and Br Micael Christoffer from Canterbury. Srs Sue and Gina had to come a very short way from Southwark. We were asked to speak up for the love of the good things our planet supports that could be spoilt by climate change – hence the title of the day, Speak up for the love of

The Climate Coalition, the group of charities and faith groups that organised the mass lobby claim around 9,000 constituents were there and that about 250 MPs were lobbied. Christian Aid is a member of the Coalition and had helped us to organise our trips. I saw people from Oxfam, A Rocha (which works closely with Hilfield), Cafod, and WWF among others who are in the coalition.

The lobby was timed to meet our MPs soon after the election, and in good time before the international conference on climate change in Paris in December. We were there to tell our MPs that it is vital that Britain does all it can to persuade the nations of the world to come to a deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – something they failed to do at the 2009 conference in Copenhagen, where I was part of a C/SSF team.

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West Dorset constituents (Daniel and Br Hugh from Hilfield on the extreme left) meeting their MP The Rt. Hon Oliver Letwin MP, Minister of State for Government Policy (from Oliver Letwin’s website)

It was also on the eve of the publication of the Pope’s Encyclical on climate change and its terrible consequences for our planet if we do not change our lifestyles. While the encyclical is unusually addressed to all human beings, not just to Catholics, it is of particular interest to Franciscans as it is entitled Laudato Si (Be Praised), the opening words of St Francis’ Canticle of the Creatures.

We Franciscans and members of other religious orders who we work with in Justice and Peace Links began the day with an ecumenical service at the packed St Margaret’s Westminster, a church where Politics and Prayer have mingled for centuries. The preacher, the Bishop of Salisbury, Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, said: “This is not just our individual concern. It is our Christian concern together as the church. It is the concern of people of all faiths. It is our human concern in solidarity with all people. The world is our home.” He praised the Encyclical, and also the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lambeth Declaration on Climate Change.

After the service we walked a short distance, in lovely sunny weather, to meet our MPs by the stretch of the Thames from the House of Commons and over the bridge to Lambeth Palace. Some of them arrived in rickshaws that the organisers had laid on. Our West Dorset MP, Oliver Letwin, gave us ten minutes and asked us to meet him again at home. After that the three of us from Hilfield visited a Muslim environmental stall at the interfaith area in Lambeth Park, and information stalls run by other charities in St John’s, Smith Square.

Going home to Dorset, our coach met horrible traffic, and it took two hours to get from Westminster to Hammersmith. It was a reminder me that even attending a climate lobby can involve emitting even more greenhouse gases.

A newspaper report published in the Guardian the next day can be found here

 

Hugh SSF