On Sunday, September 21st, I traveled to New York City to join 400,000 others for the People’s Climate March, a public witness that was the first of its kind. Thousands of groups lined up for the march to the U.N. in support of the U.N. Climate Summit. I was part of the interfaith contingent which stretched out for half a mile, containing nearly 10,000 people of faith. To say that this gathering was inspirational is an understatement. Never have I seen such a gathering of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, and countless other faiths united for one common cause: speaking out against the destruction of God’s Creation.
Miraculously, in the midst of the crowd, I was able to find Laura Vargas of the Columban JPIC office in Peru. Laura was in New York to attend the various activities and meetings with the faith community surrounding the U. N. Climate Summit. Meeting Laura was truly a “Columban Experience.” Even though we had never met in person and are from different parts of the world, we were instantly bonded by our shared faith and experience as lay people working with the Columban Fathers through our advocacy efforts, serving the most poor and marginalized of our world affected by climate change.
Leading up to the march, members of the faith contingent shared prayers, songs, and reflections together. We joined together in the traditional prayers of ten different faith traditions. Although unique in their words and customs, each prayed for our leaders to act immediately on climate change. I was moved by the thousands of people praying together as one body. I could feel the energy and love for God’s earth and people surrounding me.
We marched through the streets of New York City, led by indigenous groups and youth, reminding us that the people whose cultures rely on the protection and sanctity of the earth are most impacted by the pollution and waste that cause climate change. We marched in hopes that the leaders gathering at the UN Climate Summit would hear our call for policies that would cut carbon pollution and damage to the earth on a global scale.
Columban Father Seán McDonagh said of the Climate Summit: “[Secretary General Ban Ki Moon] has asked [leaders] to bring bold announcements and actions to the Summit that will reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilize political will for a meaningful legal agreement in 2015. Climate Summit 2014 provides a unique opportunity for leaders to champion an ambitious vision, anchored in action that will enable a meaningful global agreement in Paris in 2015.”
The thousands of people that participated in the People’s Climate March and solidarity marches throughout the world certainly got the attention of many attending the UN Climate Summit. President Obama’s remarks also called on the international community to act, and highlighted the vulnerable communities that are impacted most by climate change, “The nations that contribute the least to climate change often stand to lose the most.”
Columbans, alongside the faith communities that gathered in support of the People’s Climate March throughout the world, continue to call on our leaders to protect communities who have been plagued by conflict over diminishing resources, drought, flood, and famine – all of which are connected to pollution and waste. A statement signed by various faith leaders prior to the Summit stated, “the overwhelming scientific evidence [demonstrates] that climate change is human-induced and that, without global and inclusive action towards mitigation, its impacts will continue to grow in intensity and frequency.”
I have a renewed sense of hope after seeing the volume of people who support implementing protections for God’s Creation and for the people of the world who suffer most from climate change. I reflect on Pope Francis’ words, “Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few: Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude.” Let us continue to pray for our global leaders to come to this realization, that their policies respect Creation as God’s Gift.
Faith in Action: Ask Congress to Implement Protections for God’s Creation