MARCHERS who walked 1000 miles through Northern Ireland and around Britain to galvanise the country into action on climate change were met by a delegation of Church of England bishops in London this week. The Cut the Carbon march was organised by Christian Aid (News, 13 July onward).
The walkers arrived at Lambeth Palace on Monday morning to be told that they had blessed the country with their feet and had stirred up grass-roots support.
They were greeted by the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu. As a walker himself, he told them not to worry about their blisters, because what mattered was that they had participated.
One marcher, Mr Chirha Murhambo, 47, a Christian Aid environmental officer from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that he had joined the march because global warming was already affecting the poorest in Africa. “The Church is a very, very big power in terms of lobbying and influence,” he said, and he called on it to lobby the Government to cut carbon use.
The director of Christian Aid, Daleep Mukarji, said that the marchers had helped to create a “momentum from the grass roots”. The southern hemisphere and the poor most affected by the climate changes had to be consulted if proposed legislative changes were to work, he said.
The oldest of the marchers to complete the walk was Merryn Hellier, a Methodist, who is 68. She said that Jesus had been on the march with them, “because so many people had their minds opened to realise the full misery of the problems that people overseas are suffering already”.
The former Bishop of Umzimvubu, Eastern Cape, South Africa, the Rt Revd Geoff Davies, who is 66 and runs the interfaith South African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute, and his wife Kate, 56, joined the march at Burton-on-Trent to walk the last 500 miles.
Care for the integrity of creation and sustaining and renewing life on earth was the fifth mark of mission and “core Gospel business”, he said. Climate change was an issue of justice because it hit the poor hardest. “We are seeking justice so we can have peace,” he said. “We are looking to Britain to set a lead.” The Church, as well as environmentalists, should call for “a green sabbath to cut carbon use”.
Tim Jones, 26, from London, had taken three months’ unpaid leave from the World Development Movement charity to join the march. “We hoped to inspire people to campaign,” he said.
The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd John Gladwin, told the marchers that they had “ blessed our country and islands with your feet and given us hope for the future”.
He returned to the theme on Tuesday when he preached at the marchers’ final event, a service at St Paul’s Cathedral. Parliament was working on a climate-change Bill, he said. “The voice of Christians of all traditions needs to raise itself to ensure that this new Bill is as strong and effective as we can make it.”