Pilgrimage to Paris – it’s on!
The year 2015 is extremely important for our global climate policy. This coming December, the Heads of State and Government will meet in Paris for the 21st UN Conference on Climate Change. The ultimate goal will be to reach final agreement, after several missed opportunities, on a new climate treaty. The conclusion of this agreement could not be more urgent, given that a lot of people around the globe – especially in poverty-stricken regions – are already suffering from the consequences of man-made climate change.
Pope Francis writes in his encyclical letter Laudato Si’ : “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods, and with political dimensions; it represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day” (25).
Aware of just how serious this challenge is, a broad ecumenical alliance of dioceses, national churches, associations and development agencies like Misereor and Bread for the World has been formed to initiate the campaign entitled “It’s possible! Ecumenical Pilgrimage for Climate Justice”. With this action, the pilgrims, starting on 13 September and going right up to 28 November,want to draw attention between 13 September and 28 November to the social consequences of climate change and underline their demands for a new effective treaty.
"Climate change exacerbates social injustice", says Jan Christensen, one of the initiators and Pastor for Environmental Matters in the ‘Nordkirche’ (one of the Protestant Regional Churches in Germany). "The industrial countries that have contributed most suffer least from the consequences. However, where the people are poor, floods, storms, heat or drought have disastrous consequences”. Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, Chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church of Germany and patron of the ecumenical pilgrimage, explains: “Climate protection and global justice are closely related. Our faith gives us the strength to work for both – this will be made clear by the Ecumenical Pilgrimage for Climate Justice.”
The Pilgrimage for Climate Justice combines spiritual reflection with political commitment. Through meetings and the exchange of views, a way of life is promoted that respects the limits of creation and repudiates all forms of exploitation of men or of nature. To illustrate this and to educate the pilgrims themselves, the route will lead past positive examples, such as community centres equipped with solar power geeration and a zoo for the preservation of old farm livestock breeds. The pilgrims will also visit “places of pain”, such as an intensive livestock farming facility and an operational brown coal open-cast mine. All along the route there will be pauses for moments of prayer, discussion session and workshops.
The pilgrims will walk almost 1500 km on their way from Flensburg to Paris. More pilgrims from Ludwigshafen and Strasbourg will join the main group in Metz. The programme on the route will be just as varied as the regions and the special characteristics of the different Federal States and Departements being traversed. Some days of the pilgrimage will be reserved for quiet meditation, while others in between will be devoted to a few major events with a stronger political focus, such as the Mountain Festival in Wuppertal on 25 October where around two hundred visitors are expected.
Karin Kortmann, Vice-President of the Central Committee of German Catholics, says: “Any further postponement or delay of ambitious world-wide climate targets will lead to collapse on a global scale. We cannot ignore the cries of distress from people and from nature.” For this reason, the pilgrims will be gathering together in Paris to “cry out” on behalf of the people in the global South. On 28 November, other groups of pilgrims will be coming from all corners of the world to Paris to take part in the Paris climate conference’s closing ceremony. They will call for a fair and binding climate treaty whose implementation should help put a ceiling to global warming of less than two degrees Celsius.
The Ecumenical Pilgrimage will be centrally coordinated from Hamburg and Aachen in close cooperation with the French churches. Local logistics will be organised by German and French stage coordinators who will offer overnight accommodation possibilities against a small contribution – either private or in the community centre – as well as a hot evening meal and breakfast for overnight guests. However, at the moment they have no idea whether the volunteers will be cooking for five or for fifty people.
Anyone can join in, as long as they are capable of walking an average daily distance of 20-25 kilometres. Participants may decide to walk the whole way or to walk for a couple of weeks, or even for just a few days.
Bischöfliches Hilfswerk MISEREOR e. V.
To make planning easier, participants really should register in advance: the website www.klimapilgern.de contains a map of the planned route, practical FAQs and checklists, as well as a registration form for the pilgrimage campaign. Pilgrims joining for several days should take a sleeping bag and sleeping mat with them.
French pilgrims can find this information and the link to the registration form at the website www.klimapilgern.de/fr