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Lord Williams joins Extinction Rebellion protests in London

02 September 2020

 Holly-Anna Petersen 

Lord Williams and other clerical protesters with a banner at the XR protest in London on Tuesday

Lord Williams and other clerical protesters with a banner at the XR protest in London on Tuesday

THE former Archbishop of Canterbury the Rt Revd Lord Williams joined members of Extinction Rebellion (XR) this week as campaigners took to the streets in London, Cardiff, and Manchester to demand stronger action to tackle climate change.

Christians were among the more than 65 people arrested on Tuesday as roads around Parliament were blockaded. Lord Williams joined the Christians of XR, known as Christian Climate Action, in a march from Buckingham Palace to Parliament Square, while holding a banner with fellow priests which read “CREATION CRIES OUT”.

Asked why he felt that it was important for people of faith to attend the rally, he said: “People of faith should be here because they are people of faith. That is, they believe they can make a difference of some kind and that that difference is worth making.

“We’re at a remarkable moment of opportunity. People are talking about building back better. We have to take that opportunity. It’s not just recovering what’s been lost but building again something that is genuinely more sustainable. Because, in the last few months, we have seen the possibility of some alternatives that might work, and I think people of faith ought to be on board with making those alternatives work.”

With the Government preparing to spend large sums to stimulate the economy following the Covid-19 lockdown measures, economists and environmentalists have urged the Government to adopt a “green recovery” that would help to create jobs and also accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy and reduce emissions.

Holly-Anna Petersen Police arrest a Christian and father of three from Kent, Paul Kunert

Extinction Rebellion is calling on MPs to support the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill, which was set to be tabled by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas on Wednesday. The legislation would strengthen the targets set in the 2008 Climate Change Act by including carbon emissions from international trade, aviation, and shipping in the UK’s “net zero” goals. It would also involve the creation of citizens’ assemblies to give the public more say on climate policy.

Five Christians were among those arrested on Tuesday. One of them was Paul Kunert, a father of three from Kent. He said: “I’ve never been arrested before, but I see no other way to get the government to take this seriously. We’re sleep-walking into a global-heating catastrophe. We need to change now, before it’s too late.”

Another was Fr Martin Newell, a Roman Catholic priest from Birmingham. He said: “The Christian faith is not an easy one — we are constantly called to step outside of our comfort zone. I believe that being faithful means taking a stand on the biggest issue of our time.

“When Jesus said to James and John, ‘Follow me’, they stood up, dropped their fishing nets, and did just that. As disciples of Christ, we are called to take action. Are we willing to stand up and do what we are called to or will we remain in the boat?”

The protests are scheduled to last for ten days, and include a round-the-clock prayer vigil by Christian Climate Action.

They began on Monday evening with an opening ceremony attended by the Area Bishop of Reading, the Rt Revd Olivia Graham. She said: “It’s increasingly clear to an increasing number of people that our planet and human race are facing an existential crisis. It’s a pleasure and a privilege to be here with other people of faith to stand in solidarity, hope, and love, and to surround the Extinction Rebellion witness with our prayers.”
 

Joe Ware is Senior Climate Journalist at Christian Aid.

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