Nearly 2 million people-of-faith petition on the eve of COP21

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, dances with Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of South Africa to celebrate some 1.8 million signatures on an interfaith petition for climate justice during the COP21 climate summit in Paris, France. Photo: LWF/R. Rodrick Beiler
Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, dances with Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of South Africa to celebrate some 1.8 million signatures on an interfaith petition for climate justice during the COP21 climate summit in Paris, France. Photo: LWF/R. Rodrick Beiler

PARIS, France/GENEVA, 29 November 2015 (LWI) – Saturday, 28 November, marked the beginning of the ecumenical and interfaith cooperation at COP21 in Paris. Four petitions by ACT Now for Climate Justice (part of ACT Alliance), the Global Catholic Climate Movement, Religions for Peace and Our Voices, with a total of almost 1.8 million signatures for climate justice inspired tears of joy and dancing feet in Paris.

Remarkably, the tears were shed by Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), who then grabbed the hands of religious leaders to dance in celebration of what they had achieved.

The faith leaders—including Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and Muslims—had gathered to present their organizations’ petition to Figueres and France's Special Envoy for the Protection of the Planet Nicolas Hulot.

“It was very emotional,” said The Lutheran World Federation General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge, who is accompanying the seven LWF delegates to the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the UNFCCC. “For those political leaders taking responsibility to get a sense of the grassroots and of 1.8 million signatures behind them, it was a very special moment.”

“We have been in discussion with Christiana Figueres since 2013 and she has been calling forward our support to join the effort,” added Junge. “It has also brought different faith traditions together because we have so much in common and we have so much to share.”

"Despite differences, we can all unite as human beings to respond together to this challenge,” Figueres told those assembled.

Her comments were echoed by faith leaders who were present on stage to present the four petitions—and who then became Figueres’ dance partners.

A human family

“The importance of this event is that now it's being recognized that faith-based organizations have a major voice,” said Sister Jayanti of the Brahma Kumaris spiritual movement in India. “This is why nearly 2 million signatures were collected. I don’t think any one organization could have done that, but all the faith traditions working together.”

“Faith-based organizations can touch people's hearts and remind them that we are a human family,” added Jayanti. “Because if one part of the world says it has nothing to do with me and the rest of the world is suffering—we can't carry on like that. This injustice has to change. And when people's hearts are touched and moved then there can be a transformation.”

Among the 400 faith actors present for the ceremony, were many “climate pilgrims" who have marched by foot and cycled from all continents. "They and many thousands of others have walked 270, 000 kilometers—this is seven times traveling the world," said Figueres

Earlier that morning, hundreds of the interfaith pilgrims gathered for “a spiritual moment” in the Basilica of Saint-Denis. “The spiritual moment was a very special moment,” said Junge. “I became very much aware of how much we know actually as different faith traditions about the care of creation.”

The interfaith events did not take place inside the French capital itself, but in the Seine Saint-Denis commune, where COP21 is actually happening, 30 November -11 December. The area is one of the most multicultural and multi-religious parts of the Paris region.

The location was all the more poignant in the aftermath of the 13 November attacks by extremists in Paris, as police raided the Saint-Denis neighborhood in the search for suspected terrorists.

Concept of justice

Yeb Saño, the former chief climate negotiator for the Philippines, was among the pilgrims who completed a 1,500 kilometer climate pilgrimage from Rome to Paris.

“We appeal to governments and world leaders gathering here in Paris to look into their hearts and heed the clamor for change and transformation and help build a world that is safe, peaceful, and sustainable for all humankind,” said Saño.

“Every person from each spiritual tradition brings their principles and concept of justice,” said Saño. “I am enthused and encouraged together with all of the pilgrims I have had the honor of walking with that this year will be different. We will stand together and we will find the courage and we will be walking on this journey—not just until Paris but beyond Paris. Together we will make a difference and change the world.”

(By LWI correspondent LWI Ryan Rodrick Beiler in Paris)

 

Watch Rev. Dr Martin Junge discuss climate justice and interfaith cooperation

The LWF delegation to COP 21 comprises seven young people representing all the LWF regions. 

Watch Filipina singer-songwriter @Nityalila Saulo talks about her song "Tayo-Tayo", which she performed at the welcome service for the @Climate Pilgrimage to Paris for the COP21 climate summit.

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