0117 GMT December 19, 2018
Sat in the crypt of St Martin’s-in-the-Fields on the edge of Trafalgar Square on Friday, Till was about to walk 200 miles to Paris on a two week pilgrimage to crunch UN climate change talks where world leaders aim to negotiate a new deal on limiting greenhouse gas emissions, the Guardian reported.
She is joined by 44 other Christians, among them Methodists, Baptists and Catholics, from 18-year-old students to 75-year-old retirees. Many more will join for smaller sections along the way as the group stop to give talks and stay with schools, churches and environmental groups.
“What we are trying to do is to get the church to see that the care of God’s creation, the care of the Earth is central to our Christian life and not a nice addition for some people who are keen on it. This is one of the key things about being a Christian today,” Bishop of Salisbury, Nick Holtam, the lead Bishop on the environment for the Church of England (CoE) told the Guardian.
“Those of you making the journey will feel it through the soles of your feet. It’s a very physical thing you are about to do. It is November – cold days, wet weather – physically it will be a challenge,” he told the pilgrims before leading a service to mark the journey.
Holtam is not the only church leader calling for stronger action on climate change within faith communities. Many hope that the Pope’s landmark climate change encyclical on the issue will galvanize believers worldwide, and in particular skeptics in the US. Islamic leaders and the Dalai Lama have issued similar calls to action.
On Friday the pilgrims walked 16 miles through Whitehall and across Westminster Bridge to Banstead, a few miles inside the M25. Other days will see the group cross through countryside, towns and along a disused railway. The longest day is 19 miles.
After taking the ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe, they will arrive in Paris in two weeks time and join the climate change march taking place there and other cities around the world. They will also deliver a series of petitions from faith organizations to Christiana Figueres, the Costa Rican diplomat leading the UN’s climate negotiations.
Kevin and Ros Durrant from Gloucester, both 56, were prompted to join the pilgrimage after hearing economist Nicholas Stern speak at the Hay Festival in May.
“It was a bit of a throwaway line – but he said that the faith communities could be doing more in the run-up to the conference. It prompted us to come and find out what the Baptist church is doing,” said Ros Durrant.
“Like lots of people we’ve been armchair environmentalists for a long time and we wanted to show our commitment in some way,” added Kevin.
The pair have only done social pub-to-pub walking before and have been training for three months. Their church is in the process of being credited as an ‘eco-congregation’ for taking environmental measures such as getting energy from renewable sources, teaching on environmental issues and encouraging members of the congregation to make lifestyle changes.
Other environmentalists around the world are also taking a symbolic journey to the talks. Yeb Saño, the Filipino diplomat who shot to fame after breaking down and leading a two week fast at climate talks in Poland two years ago, has already been on the road for six weeks as part of a 1,500km ‘people’s pilgrimage’ from Rome to the French capital.
Two climate scientists have gone many steps further, leaving their desks to walk and cycle from the two polar regions to the conference in an effort to raise awareness.