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Bishop of Bolton supports disruptive tactics of Just Stop Oil protesters  

02 September 2022

Alamy

Climate campaigners on a garage forecourt in Manchester, on Saturday, protest at renewed oil extraction from the North Sea

Climate campaigners on a garage forecourt in Manchester, on Saturday, protest at renewed oil extraction from the North Sea

THE Bishop of Bolton, the Rt Revd Mark Ashcroft, has voiced his support for protesters who break the law as they try to raise awareness about what they say is a lack of action to tackle the climate crisis.

Bishop Ashcroft spoke this week to a retired priest, the Revd Mark Coleman, from the group Just Stop Oil, whose members have this year glued and locked themselves to roads around oil refineries (News, 8 April). The group’s activities are peaceful, but often break the law and cause disruption.

Bishop Ashcroft said: “It’s really important to hold the annoyance of the disruptions against the catastrophe that is coming to our planet.”

He continued: “One of the things that has particularly affected me is the thought of my granddaughter. By the year 2100, she will have reached the normal lifespan of a female in the Western world. Will there be a planet that is sustainable for her life? Will she be alive then, will she have any hopes? What does the future look like for people of her generation?

“And therefore the inconvenience that comes with some action that stops a train or stops a motorway for an hour or two is an inconvenience — some of it against the law, or whatever. But none the less that has to be set against the bigger picture, and that bigger picture must prevail.”

He spoke about his time working in Kenya with the Church Mission Society, and recent visits when he had witnessed the effects of climate change, which had resulted in the death of livestock and the destruction of crops. He said: “The desperate desire to consume that is here in Western society, and across other societies as well, is not sustainable for the planet, and it’s not sustainable for humanity.”

Mr Coleman said that many Christian members of Just Stop Oil were inspired by the example of Jesus, who, driving out the moneylenders, had used physical direct action to prevent injustice taking place in the temple.

Bishop Ashcroft said that he did not know what actions Jesus would take today in the face of climate change, but said: “He always had a concern for the most vulnerable and most marginalised. All through scriptures, right from the beginning of his ministry, he began by saying ‘I’ve come to bring good news to the poor and to speak for the oppressed and proclaim their freedom.’

“He was hugely aware that God had created this beautiful world for us to live in, and that we were responsible for looking after the world in some shape or form and not to exploit it. He had lots of things to say that were quite draconian in some ways, about the rich who exploit the poor.”

The Bishop said that Jesus would be on the side of those suffering from climate injustice: “About the rich nations and the rich people consuming the world in a way that is not sustainable and impacts the life of the poor, he would have some very severe things to say about that. The language he used is ‘repent’.”

Bishop Ashcroft offered encouragement for the protesters, and agreed to pray with them at one of their protests next month. “People need to be confronted with a really uncomfortable fact,” he said, “that we have two, three, four years, to change direction. That’s it.”

Just Stop Oil has announced a series of direct-action protests, beginning on 1 October, and including a march in Westminster.

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