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Parliament Hill stands in for Mount Sinai in interfaith climate gathering

14 November 2022


Lord Williams (right, foreground) with other religious leaders on Parliament Hill in London for the first Climate Repentance Ceremony on Sunday

Lord Williams (right, foreground) with other religious leaders on Parliament Hill in London for the first Climate Repentance Ceremony on Sunday

THE former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams was among faith leaders who took part in an interfaith ceremony in London on Sunday to coincide with the UN climate talks, COP27.

Lord Williams was joined by representatives from Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Sikh faiths on Parliament Hill, in London, where they unfurled scrolls bearing the “Ten Principles for Climate Repentance”, a reference to the Ten Commandments revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai, which is about 125 miles away from the COP27 venue in Egypt.

The ceremony, organised by the Elijah Interfaith Institute, was duplicated in other countries, including Egypt and Israel.

Lord Williams said: “As religious leaders, we offer our voice as a contribution to the gathered leaders [at COP27] and to humanity. We must also confront honestly the destructive habits which continue to limit the possibilities and the hopes of human beings, in a call for wake up and self-examination.”

The Ten Principles for Climate Repentance are:

  1. We are stewards of this world;
  2. Creation manifests divinity;
  3. Everything in life is interconnected;
  4. Do no harm;
  5. Look after tomorrow;
  6. Rise above ego for our world;
  7. Change our inner climate;
  8. Repent and return;
  9. Every action matters;
  10. Use mind, open heart.

In an interview last Friday, Lord Williams urged the Government to insulate more homes to reduce energy waste with winter approaching. He also said that he had sympathy for the shock tactics of groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil.

Asked if disruptive protests were justifiable, he said: “Mixed feelings, to be honest. Tactically speaking, I do take the point some people are really, seriously alienated by actions like this, especially if they’ve been sitting on the M25 for five hours or whatever it might be.

“But, at the same time, I’ve got a lot of sympathy with the idea that some kinds of shock tactics do break through to people. My own question is always: how far can you go with shock tactics before you really lose the audience?

“I think I’d echo what I think [the columnist] Polly Toynbee said in The Guardian the other day: ‘If you’re really angry and put off by the actions of Just Stop Oil protesters, what exactly are you doing? What are you going to do to turn all this around?’”

On Monday, clergy were among those causing disruption in a bid to bring about action on climate change: Extinction Rebellion targeted more than 100 high-street branches of Barclays to protest against the fact that they are the UK’s and Europe’s largest financier of fossil-fuel extraction.

The Revd Helen Burnett was taking part as a member of Christian Climate Action. She is Team Vicar of St Peter & St Paul, Chaldon, with St Luke’s, Whyteleafe, in the diocese of Southwark, and joined a protest at a Barclays branch in Redhill, Surrey.

She said: “As Christians, we are called to navigate the world according to the teachings of Jesus. When Jesus overturned the tables of the moneylenders in the Temple, he was disrupting the norms of an economic system that was corrupt. Barclay’s ways of working in this world are deeply corrupt and corrosive, as they are continuing to use a model of investment that damages the earth.

“We aim to shine a light on Barclays’ complicity in climate degradation, and overturn their tables which sit unchallenged on our high streets.”

Last year, the International Energy Agency said that there was no need for investment in new fossil-fuel supply, but last year Barclays invested nearly £20 billion in fossil fuels, taking their total to £150 billion since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015.

Another member of Christian Climate Action, the Revd Jon Swales, a Lighthouse mission priest, protested outside a Barclays branch in Leeds, where he held a vigil and sang hymns with local Christians. “Climate breakdown is a justice issue,” he said. “Unless things change dramatically, it will lead to a future of mass starvation, mass migration, and societal collapse.

“As a Christian, I am called to love my neighbour. This is embodied by showing kindness and compassion towards the victims of climate breakdown, but also by enacting a prophetic tradition which speaks truth to corporations, banks, and financial institutions which plunge us further towards worst case scenarios”.

Joe Ware is a senior climate journalist at Christian Aid

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