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Clergy join fossil-fuel protests in London

21 October 2022

Holly-Anna Petersen

The Revd Helen Burnett presides at the eucharist outside the gates to Downing Street

The Revd Helen Burnett presides at the eucharist outside the gates to Downing Street

CLIMATE campaigners, including members of the clergy, took part in protests that closed roads in London last week.

Members of Christian Climate Action were among protesters who brought Whitehall to a standstill last Friday, as they marched from Trafalgar Square. They held a eucharist outside the gates of Downing Street, at which the Revd Helen Burnett presided. She is Team Vicar of St Peter and St Paul, Chaldon, with St Luke’s, Whyteleafe.

Many of those on the march brought with them their energy bills, which they burned in protest at the rising cost of fossil fuels. Michelle Barnes, an Anglican laywoman and a mother of two, said: “We are in a climate crisis, a sixth mass extinction, and a cost-of-living scandal, when the greed of the fossil-fuel industry is killing humanity, particularly the poor.

“The UN secretary-general, António Guterres, has called new investments in oil, coal, and gas ‘moral and economic madness’. Yet the Government is determined to lock the UK into long term oil and gas dependency, ignoring the appeals of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the International Energy Agency, their own Climate Change Committee, and all mainstream scientists. I am here to call out the corruption and greed at the heart of this Government.”

Elsewhere, members of the campaign group Just Stop Oil threw tomato soup over the glass frame in which Van Gogh’s Sunflowers is housed, at the National Gallery. On Tuesday, others from the group climbed to the top of the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, disrupting the Dartford Crossing for two days.

Thalia Carr is one of the Christian members of Just Stop Oil. She said: “The lectionary reading on Sunday was about the persistent widow. I think that’s what we are and have to be with our actions. We can’t stop asking for what is needed at this time, however hopeless and difficult things seem. We don’t do things for popularity, or even to win everyone over to our side. We do what we do because we need drastic, fast change, and we need to pressurise the Government to do that.”

On Monday, Roman Catholic clergy in Africa described climate change as a “structural sin” in a communiqué from the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar. The Archbishop of Kinshasa, Cardinal Fridolin Besungu Ambongo, read out the statement.

He said: “Climate change is a moral outrage. It is a tragic and striking example of structural sin, facilitated by callous indifference and selfish greed. The climate crisis is leading to the destruction of our planet, the devastation of the lives of the poor, and the detriment of future generations.”

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