Christiana Figueres, coordinator of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), did not stand up to emotion and was moved to tears when Anglican archbishop Thabo Makgoba handed her the petitions collected by Churches, along with world religions and NGOs, to be presented to heads of Government and State on the occasion of the UN Climate Conference Cop21. “I wish to thank you – said the UN representative – for your contribution, for your prayers and for your faith. As pilgrims, you have crossed every continent.
I wish to thank you for every single destination you have reached. You have shown us that great things are possible”.
The moving words of the UN High Representative are evidence that the efforts made so far by the Churches, by other world religions, by thousands of members of NGOs and associations, to touch “the hearts” of politicians, were not in vain.
Hundreds of climate pilgrims convened in Paris, on the eve of the UN Climate Conference. They travelled on foot or by bicycle throughout the streets of Europe for thousands of kilometers. Groups of pilgrims left from Germany, Scotland and England, the Netherlands and Scandinavia, but also from the Philippines, Peru and Kenya. Some have covered the entire trip, others only some stages. Among them figured the Focsiv-Volunteers in the world: a composite group of 11 people who travelled 1500 kilometers from Rome to Paris in 57 days with the motto “One Earth. One Human Family. On the Way to Paris”. These pilgrims are motivated by concern for the future of our planet: heat waves and floods, melting glaciers, rising sea level and increasing acidity of the oceans.
There is little time left to act, to change our lifestyles and reverse production systems.
The ecological crisis. Pope Francis wrote in the Encyclical Laudato sì – is also a moral and spiritual crisis. For this reason, before handing over to government and UN leaders their petitions, Church and other religious leaders have decided to convene in the Saint-Denis Basilica for a spiritual gathering. The city with 100 thousand inhabitants from 90 different countries is located in the northern outskirts of Paris, connected via Underground train line 13. This is where, in the shadow of the Stade de France, two suicide bombers blew themselves up on November 13th. It is also the place where assault squads raided the terrorists’ hideout. The basilica is garrisoned by the army: young men in camouflage with Kalashnikovs on their shoulders. They are a clear sign of a “war” that is not yet over.
In the basilica, meditations and prayers are recited according to the different religious traditions (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist)
Hail Mary sung by Catholics is heard along with the Buddhist bell and Sikh meditations. The invocation in diverse voices and languages restores to Paris, in these hours still marked by terror, the hope that peace is possible, perhaps in a not too distant future.
Different yet unanimous voices call upon the political leaders due to convene in Paris on Monday for the Climate Conference “to have the courage and the strength to change the destiny of our planet”. Four petitions are delivered to representatives of the UN and the French government in the Salle de la Legion d’Honneur of Saint-Denis. In all, nearly 2 million signatures were collected, with concrete requests. Cop21 leaders are expected to reach an honest, binding agreement; drastic reduction of carbon emissions to keep the global temperature increase below 1.5 degrees Celsius;
to “put an end to the fossil fuels era with an aim of zero net emissions by 2050”.
“I call upon political leaders to listen to the outcry of planet Earth and to the pleas of the poor – said Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes – thereby responding to the request for climate justice. We are running out of time. Now is the time to act”.