Fellow pilgrims showing their support for an ambitious and binding agreement to reduce climate change in COP21 in December 2015. © Sean Hawkey

Fellow pilgrims showing their support for an ambitious and binding agreement to reduce climate change in COP21 in December 2015. © Sean Hawkey

World leaders will meet at the crucial United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) in Paris from 30 November to 11 December. Faith groups around the world are building awareness of the importance of reaching a binding and ambitious agreement at the talks. In October, World Council of Churches (WCC) members have taken part in climate activities in Germany.

Climate pilgrims walking more than 1000km from Flensburg to Paris reached the halfway point in Wuppertal this weekend, where German Federal Minister of the Environment Barbara Hendriks and many Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders welcomed them.

Dr Guillermo Kerber, WCC programme executive for Care for Creation and Climate Justice, spoke to the pilgrims at a press conference.

“In Germany, there has been a very strong commitment from both the Protestant Church EKD [Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland], and the Roman Catholic Church for this pilgrimage to be so successful. Church-related organisations like Bread for the World and Misereor as well as local dioceses are all involved together in the pilgrimage”.

“It’s an important way to convey the message on climate to others who are not taking part in the pilgrimage, and they’re achieving this along the way through joint religious celebrations and through the many opportunities the pilgrims have to meet people along the road to Paris”.

“During these events in Wuppertal we’ve heard from a Indonesian pastor who shared firsthand experiences of the consequences of climate change in his country, and at the United Evangelical Mission there has been a display of different church-related initiatives on climate change, including emission reductions and offsetting”.

Kathrin Schroeder, energy policy officer at Misereor, and member of the organising committee for the pilgrimage, said that “many people are involved in the pilgrimage because the issue of climate justice is really moving people. They realise how important it is, not only for Germany but across the world. People are turning out to walk each day, and people are turning up at the events that are organised in the evenings and weekends”.

“It’s also a big success because the Catholic and Protestant churches have worked closely together to organise it. Church leaders in all the churches have realised how important the UN climate talks in Paris are, and that we have to act together. We have all collaborated very closely to make these events work”.

“Church groups have also taken the unusual measure of putting pressure on the government, really that’s not normal for them, but they are taking the chance to do it now. We could say they are joining together in an interfaith movement on climate change”.

“We helped produce the interfaith statement that was delivered to Christiana Figueres in Bonn, and we have also given it to the environment minister and we will deliver it to the chancellor and to other politicians. We need to make our hopes and expectations clear to the people who represent us in the climate talks”.

The German pilgrimage will join other pilgrimages as they arrive in Paris. There are groups walking from the UK, Netherlands, and Rome, and people have also cycled across Africa while others have crossed Sweden and Norway. Hundreds of thousands are expected to march together in Paris.

“Protestants, evangelicals and Roman Catholics are united on climate change” said Kerber, “and we stand with other faiths, to show the strength of feeling among us, and the commitment there is for urgent action on the climate”.

Several faith-based climate pilgrimages are crossing Europe and will meet in Paris for COP21.

Flensburg to Paris

London to Paris

Rome to Paris

Norway to Paris (this is a concluded section of the pilgrimages)

Sweden to Paris (this is a concluded section of the pilgrimages)

People’s Pilgrimage

WCC work on Care for creation and Climate Justice

Religious leaders call for a zero carbon, climate resilient, equitable future agreement