More than a million school students internationally have taken to the streets on Fridays during term time and during the holidays to demand politicians listen to their concerns about the climate emergency. Catholic school pupils in Britain have met with their MPs, inviting them into schools and travelling down to Parliament to lobby them. They are now inviting everyone to take to the streets in hundreds of towns and cities across the UK to demand action. The initiative is unique as it is being spearheaded by school students, with a 16-year-old Swedish girl, Greta Thunberg, emerging as the symbolic voice of the movement. The youth have asked people of all ages to join them.
The next #GlobalClimateStrike starts today, Friday, September 20. In London it's happening at Millbank from 11am. At 4pm a service will be held at the Westminster Quaker Meeting House by people in the Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions. This event is being co-organised by members of the UK Student Climate Network and the Faith for the Climate Network, and is supported by Islamic Relief, Jews for XR, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Quakers in Britain, EcoSynagogue, Operation Noah, Tearfund, Ecosynagogue, Green Christian, Christian Climate Action, and more.
Columban missionaries are amongst Catholic groups expressing solidarity with the strikers. Ellen Teague of the Columban JPIC team will be at Millbank. Her colleague James Trewby is running a Laudato Si' - themed retreat day for 12 sixth formers and some teachers from John Henry Newman Catholic College in Birmingham at St Chad's Cathedral, and will then join the climate strike in Birmingham City Centre. The Columbans at their Advocacy Office in Washington, United States, say: "Columbans around the world will participate in Friday's events. From the Philippines to Peru, Columbans accompany communities impacted by climate change every day. We encourage you to join the climate strikes this Friday to stand for those communities and your own." Columban Fr Patrick McInerney in Australia put a picture of himself up on Facebook holding a sign, "I am a Catholic priest and I support the Climate Strike".
In the Philippines - one of the countries worst affected by climate change - Fr Edwin Gariguez, Director of Caritas Philippines, is "inviting and mobilising the youth and support organisations to go out and join the climate strike tomorrow". Here in Britain, Sisters of St Joseph of Peace will be at the Nottingham Climate Strike. J&P activist Ann Farr will be at the Swansea strike in Wales.
Pope Francis recognised the frustration of young people in his encyclical Laudato Si': 'Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.'
Radical actions are taking place in the backdrop of "a warning to humanity" written by climate scientists in 2017. These scientists summarised the catastrophic consequences of human activity on the planet, in particularly our society's dangerous addiction to fossil fuels. Humans have already induced about 1C warming in global temperatures and we are headed to over 2C in the near future. Such an increase can lead to a self-perpetuating cycle of warming on the planet, with melting glaciers and rising sea levels threatening entire eco-systems. The stakes could not be higher.
Around the world, young people are frustrated about the lack of action to tackle the climate crisis. They have repeatedly asked governments to act to protect their future. But the current pace of change is too slow.
To find your nearest UK Climate Strike see: https://ukscn.org/events/
The international context is here: https://laudatosigeneration.org/rise-up/
At 7pm on 28 October a speaker from Extinction Rebellion will be addressing a meeting:
'Responding to Climate Emergency and the place of Civil Disobedience' at the Assumption Sisters, Milleret House, Kensington Square. It is organised by the Assumption Sisters JPIC Team.
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