In a little more than a month’s time, hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world will be marching for climate justice. The People’s Climate Marches, taking place on the weekend of 27-29 November, is expected to be the largest climate change protest in history.
Rev Elenie Poulos, national director of UnitingJustice, joined ABC Radio on Sunday night to discuss the Uniting Church’s involvement in the marches. The Uniting Church is one of more than 130 religious groups and non-government organisations officially endorsing the Australian rallies.
Ms Poulos said this is a timely opportunity for the global community to call for strong action on climate change ahead of the COP21 UN conference in Paris on 7-8 December.
“The idea of the marches is to demonstrate to the world’s political leaders that the people they’re governing want some really good outcomes from Paris,” she said.
“People who are marching as people of faith are all being asked to wear purple on the day. So we’ll be easily seen and we’re expecting a big Uniting Church turn-out.”
The Uniting Church has a proud history of environmental advocacy stretching back to its inception in 1977. Many congregations have embarked on grassroots initiatives to advocate for a carbon-free future and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in churches.
“In the Uniting Church, what you’ve seen is a growing number of people around the country really getting involved and taking action on climate change,” Ms Poulos said.
“We’ve had ministers and members of Uniting Churches protesting against new coal mines, putting themselves on the line and being willing to be arrested to do that.
“We’ve seen local congregations open up free bike repair services to encourage people to leave their cars at home, and the rise of community gardens.”
Ms Poulos believes church members can engage with people who are sceptical or indifferent about human-induced climate change through conversations.
“I would encourage local groups of ministers, who often have fellowship time together, to actually dedicate some time to looking at these documents and thinking about the state of the world at the moment.”
Earlier this month, a village in Fiji was forced to relocate because of rising sea-levels. 45 other coastal villages in Fiji are expected to undergo a similar change within the next five to 10 years.
“It’s not just the environment that’s being exploited by the current economic neo-liberal agenda; it’s also the majority of the world’s people,” Ms Poulos said.
“We can see that in the growing gap between the rich and the poor. It’s time to pay attention to that and to our environment. The solution is renewables and keeping coal in the ground.”
Climate change will affect future generations the most and Ms Poulos is confident young Christian leaders can tackle this challenge.
“We are seeing an incredible movement of young Christians being motivated and engaged on a whole range of issues, including climate change,” she said.
“So I’m very hopeful about the whole church getting on board to send a very strong message that, morally, we have to do something and we have to do it quickly.”
In Melbourne, faith groups will gather on 27 November at 5pm outside Wesley Uniting Church for a ‘farewell to coal’ before joining the march at 5.30pm at the State Library of Victoria.
Tasmanians will march from Parliament Lawns in Hobart on Sunday 29 November at 1pm.
The Justice and International Mission (JIM) unit will host an event on Tuesday 10 November 2:30-4pm at the Melbourne synod office for people interested in mobilising communities to participate in the march.
Attendees will hear about the synod’s plans for the march and discuss different ways their church can become involved. The JIM unit will also share tips for encouraging participation amongst the church community.
If you would like to attend, please RSVP by Friday 6 November to Denisse Sandoval – firstname.lastname@example.org or Cath James at email@example.com – phone 0438 504 394