"In COP21 we decide whether the glass is half full or half empty, but the glass must be transparent", tweeted climate activist Yeb Saño at the end of a day full of activities engaging leadership and staff members of the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and ACT Alliance, at the Ecumenical Centre, in Geneva, Switzerland.
Saño and his partners on the Peoples’ Pilgrimage were welcomed at the main door of the centre by Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, associate general secretary at the WCC, Rev. Dr Martin Junge, general secretary of the LWF, and Pauliina Parhiala, ACT Alliance’s director and chief operating officer.
The pilgrims, who began walking from Rome to Paris 36 days ago, want to deliver a strong message of climate justice to the leaders gathered for the COP21.
At her welcoming speech to the pilgrims, Phiri pointed out that the People’s Pilgrimage is also a clear expression of the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace, a call from the 10th Assembly of the WCC.
As part of the programme of the pilgrims at the ecumenical centre, a panel on the approach to faith organizations to COP21 was organized. “Facing the climate crisis: ethical and spiritual challenges” had the participation of Nadia Gonella (Peoples’ Pilgrimage), Martin Kopp (LWF), Vitumbiko Chinoko (ACT Alliance) and was moderated by WCC’s programme executive for Care for Creation and Climate Justice, Dr Guillermo Kerber.
Kerber evaluated the panel as a positive experience. “All panelists agreed that COP21 will just be a relevant milestone in the longer journey for climate justice”, he said, stressing that “mobilization of faith communities, such as the various pilgrimages and fast for the climate campaign, contribute to raising awareness and involving more people to address the climate crisis”, he added.
One of the key points of consensus among participants was also the fact that the international community has the opportunity to deliver a fair, ambitious and binding treaty, as faith and spiritual leaders recently requested, to keep average temperature rise below 1.5°C. An increase beyond this would imply further dramatic consequences to the most vulnerable populations suffering the consequences of climate change.
One of the pilgrims, Alan Silyan of the Philippines, commented, “Climate change has evolved from a political to a moral issue. If we’re disconnected from our environment, we’re disconnected from our spirituality.”
From Geneva, the pilgrims continue their journey to Lyon, France on 6 November. They are expected to arrive in Paris on 28 November.