COLUMBANS CAMPAIGN FOR CLIMATE JUSTICE THROUGH WORKSHOP AND STUDENT RALLY
The Columban Missionaries were promoting God’s love for creation and the earth this Valentine’s day by holding an informative environmental retreat for local school students. Based around Laudato Si’ – On Care for Our Common Home, staff from the society’s HQ in Solihull also accompanied the students on a student climate march through the streets of Birmingham city centre on Friday, 14th February.
Students from the Eco Committee at John Henry Newman Catholic College in Chelmsley Wood travelled to St. Chad’s Cathedral in the heart of Birmingham where they were welcomed by the Columban’s Justice and Peace Education Worker James Trewby and his colleagues. After introductions and a prayer, the group skyped with Fr. Liam O’Callaghan, a Columban missionary living in the Sindh province of Pakistan. He explained how climate change has impacted some of the most vulnerable communities he works with. He described the effects of extreme weather events caused by climate change which have claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in the country over the last 20 years. Fr. Liam talked about Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’, which is a profound invitation to everyone on the planet to care for our common home. He blessed the students in Urdu, urging them to have the strength and courage to motivate others to respect creation and care for it as a gift of God.
Inspired by their conversation with Fr. Liam, the students were invited to join a climate change rally which began in Birmingham’s Centenary Square. The experience allowed the students to unite together with other young people who share their passion for climate justice. They witnessed people peacefully demanding action be taken by the government to address climate change. They took a selection of handmade banners colourfully illustrating their concerns and joined in with protest chants and cheering.
Upon returning to St. Chad’s after the march, the students shared their thoughts collectively and sat in the Cathedral grounds to complete a meditative sketch in silence. This activity gave the students the opportunity to focus for a few minutes on one aspect of God’s creation, to reflect on the day’s events and to partake in thoughtful prayer with God.
Talking of the event, Justice and Peace Education Worker James Trewby explains, “Pope Francis in Laudato Si’ says that climate change is real and mainly ‘a result of human activity’. It is therefore our responsibility as Catholics to care for creation and protect global ecosystems whilst uplifting the poor and vulnerable.” He adds, “It was great to see the students enthusiastic to join likeminded young people, intent on having their voices heard and demanding the government follows through on their declaration of a climate emergency and take steps to tackle the problem. I’m hopeful they will return to their school inspired to bring about change and spread the word to their peers!”
James, along with the society’s newly appointed Communications Officer Emma Darling, was supported by Faith in Action Volunteer Berlind Fellermeier and lay missionary Jung-Hae Kim Roberta, who has recently arrived in Britain, having spent the past 10 years on mission in Japan.
Friday’s event was organised by Birmingham Youth Strike 4 Justice in collaboration with UK Student Climate Network (UKSCN) and Friends of the Earth. Young people across Britain joined local rallies to call on the government to draw up a green new deal to transform the economy and for the climate crisis to be placed on the UK school curriculum.
“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.”
Laudato Si’ – 13
For more information about the Columban missionaries and how they work in solidarity with the poor and the exploited earth, for justice, peace and the integrity of creation, please visit the website or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.