Climate justice pilgrims

Pilgrimage of Justice & Peace

GENEVA, Switzerland — Thousands of people, either on foot or on bicycles, are planning to embark on a pilgrimage of climate justice in many parts of the world.

These faithful pilgrims, rooted in their religious beliefs, want to express solidarity with those affected by climate change and urge world leaders to produce a legally binding and universal agreement on the climate at the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris.

Climate justice pilgrims

The World Council of Churches expects thousands of people, either on foot or on bicycles, to embark on a pilgrimage of climate justice in many parts of the world.

These pilgrims, mostly from Europe and Africa, are mobilized by Christian organizations representing members of the World Council of Churches (WCC). Some will end their journey in Paris, uniting their voices with other faith actors at the COP21 to be held Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 this year.

“Paris is a milestone in our pilgrimage of climate justice,” said Dr Guillermo Kerber, WCC program executive for Care for Creation & Climate Justice. “Yet Paris is not a destination. As people of faith, expected to offer a moral compass to climate dialogue, we need to strategize for 2016 and beyond.”

Preparatory meeting

Kerber made his remarks in a Jan. 22 COP21 preparatory meeting here for ecumenical organizations. The concept “pilgrimage of justice and peace” is a vision promoted by the WCC 10th Assembly. Climate justice is a significant component of this vision.

In Africa the ‘pilgrims of climate justice’ are planning to cross borders on foot and bicycles, raising awareness about the impact of climate change.

Following calls for climate justice by religious leaders such as Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church, the WCC is planning to bring strong voices from religious communities demanding a fair, ambitious and legally binding treaty in Paris, according to Kerber.

In Africa the “pilgrims of climate justice” are planning to cross borders on foot and bicycles, raising awareness about the impact of climate change.

Pilgrimage of justice and peace

Patriciah Akullo of the ACT Alliance, a partner organization of the WCC, shared information about her organization’s campaign for climate justice, coming into force around COP21 with a focus on Africa. She said that after crossing borders between South Africa, Uganda and Burundi among other countries, these pilgrims’ final destination will be Nairobi.

Celebrities expected to add their voices to the campaign are Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, with others from the fields of sports, culture and music.

“Pilgrimage to COP21 is a pilgrimage of justice and peace, for people and for earth,” said Isaiah Toroitich, working for the campaign Act Now for Climate Justice. “As people of faith we hope to speak in one united voice in Paris demonstrating our solidarity with those affected by climate change.”

Thomas Hirsch from Bread for the World said that as people of faith “we are united in our diversity through our efforts and our pleas for climate justice to be heard at COP 21.” The planning of initiatives from the churches, ecumenical organizations and their faith partners were called motivating by Hirsch. He said the momentum of these efforts can go down if COP21 is not able to deliver, however.

The following organizations took part in the preparatory meeting: the ACT Alliance, Conference of European Churches, Norwegian Church Aid, MISEREOR, Green Pilgrimage Network, Bread for the World, The Lutheran World Federation, Christian Aid, Secours Catholique, CIDSE and the CCFD-Terre Solidaire.

Editor's note: The World Council of Churches (WCC) brings together churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories throughout the world, representing over 500 million Christians and including most of the world's Orthodox churches, scores of Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed churches, as well as many United and Independent churches. At the end of 2013, there were 345 member churches. While the bulk of the WCC's founding churches were European and North American, today most member churches are in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, the Middle East and the Pacific.

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