50,000 Passionate People March for Climate Change

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CAFOD supporters from Arundel and Brighton meet up after the Interfaith event ready to join the People’s March for Climate Change

It has taken a couple of days for the events of Sunday to sink in. Rosemary and I left Cranleigh at 9:30 and, for once, we had a very smooth journey to Knightsbridge with no delays. As we were going to be early, we expected to find few people at the Westminster Synagogue but no, the place was already buzzing with lots of CAFOD One Climate One World t-shirts on view. The inter-faith event was truly inspiring with speakers from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist communities. The large room was full with more people gathered outside the door. The message was clear – there is only one God and, though we might approach God through different paths, the command to love our neighbours and protect creation is the same for all of us. Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ was praised by several speakers with its call to appreciate and wonder at creation, rather than exploit it. This was enhanced by a short period of mindfulness, led by a Buddhist, which helped us to be fully aware of our bodies and our connectedness to our environment – it reminded me of Jean-Pierre de Caussade’s teaching on “the sacrament of the present moment”. Afterwards, we assembled in the road to walk and join the main march as a faith block – it seemed as though half the people were holding CAFOD placards! Jo managed to get together most of the A&B contingent for a photo but I later saw others from our diocese who had not been included.

The march was well under way when we arrived and thousands had already set off. As we fed into the throng the loudspeaker announced “Let’s give a shout to welcome our friends from CAFOD” – and then a bit later “Our friends from CAFOD are still arriving!”

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The march had an extremely happy and friendly atmosphere, helped by several excellent jazz and samba bands, with a remarkably small police presence. The marchers ranged from grandparents to babies and I saw several dogs. Some people were in costume, such as penguins and polar bears, while others had made props – one that particularly struck me was a giant ice cream cone with a melting planet earth as the ice cream. As well as CAFOD’s placards saying “Care for our common home”, some of the other noticeable slogans were “There is no Planet B”, “Alternative energy sources – many, alternative planets – none” and “Keep the coal in the hole and the oil in the soil”.

We walked past the Houses of Parliament and then had to come to a halt – the area for the closing rally was already full. However, a huge screen had been erected in the road so we could see and hear what was happening on the stage. As well as a couple of very enthusiastic poets, for me the most memorable part was three girls, maybe aged about 12, who took us through the previous climate conferences and what they achieved. One girl shouted the date, the next shouted the location, the third shouted “Nothing” and everyone joined in the repeated shouts of “Nothing”. Let us really pray that it will be “2015 – Paris – Action”.

The rally was due to finish around 3:45 – 4:00, but Rosemary and I had to leave at 3:30 for family commitments. I was amazed that, as we walked back to Westminster station, the march was still coming into Parliament Square. The accepted figure is that 50,000 people were on the march – it felt like a lot more!

With people all around the world, we have used our feet and our voices. The world leaders in Paris will have to take notice. But now it is time to use our souls and pray for a successful outcome. There are many prayer resources on the CAFOD website or you can have daily prayers emailed to you at http://www.pray4cop21.org.   Finally, be filled with hope and confidence that the Spirit will move the world leaders.

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