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Christian protesters join march for nature through London

25 June 2024

GREEN CHRISTIAN

Protesters march through London last Saturday

Protesters march through London last Saturday

CHRISTIAN groups came together last Saturday to host a service of “prayer and lament for creation” at the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street, London, before joining more than 60,000 people on a march through London to protest against the drastic decline of the wildlife in the UK, and damage to the ecosystem.

The Restore Nature Now march was organised by a coalition of environmental organisations: Extinction Rebellion was joined by some of the biggest nature charities in the UK, including the RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts, the Climate Coalition, WWF UK, the National Trust, WWT, Woodland Trust, Wildlife and Countryside Link, and Rewilding Britain.

The service, named “Creation Cries Out”, was co-led by Fr Dominic Robinson SJ, a parish priest of the Immaculate Conception, who chairs the diocese of Westminster Justice and Peace Commission, together with the Revd Helen Burnett, an Extinction Rebellion member and Vicar of St Peter and St Paul’s in Chaldon, Southwark.

Ms Burnett explained that the service was devised to cater for people who would not normally go on a march, “where they can pray together and ground themselves”. It was important for the gathering to bring together Christians from diverse denominations, she said, because “over creation there can be nothing other than common ground”.

In a sermon, Andy Atkins, the CEO of A Rocha UK, the longest-running Christian conservation charity, said that Christians had a double mandate to protect creation: to steward God’s beloved creatures; and to care for the vulnerable in society, who were the most affected by environmental injustices, both globally and here in the UK.

The 2023 State of Nature Report reckoned that one in six species in Great Britain are at risk of becoming extinct, and that almost 1500 species, from the turtledove to the water vole, could disappear entirely. This would include 43 per cent of bird species, 31 per cent of amphibians and reptiles, and 26 per cent of land mammals.

The report also found that, of Britain’s most important habitats for wildlife, only one in seven were in good condition. In January, the Office for Environmental Protection, the independent watchdog, found that the Government is on track to meet only four out of 40 environmental targets for England.

“None of the parties have enough about this in their manifestos,” said Hannah Eves, a co-organiser of the Creation Cries Out service, from A Rocha UK. “In the run-up to the election, we need politicians to sit up and take notice that so much of the British public cares so deeply about nature.”

The march had five demands for the next Government: to double the budget for nature and climate-friendly farming; to make polluters pay for nature and climate recovery; to protect more land and water for wildlife; an Environmental Rights Bill to guarantee access to clean air and green spaces for all citizens; and to at least halve UK greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Safeguarding the integrity of creation is one of the Five Marks of Mission for the Anglican Church. Many of the Christian participants in the march felt that churches could do more to protect and restore nature. Fr Robinson said that environmental groups, churches, and other faith groups could share advice for making their buildings more sustainable and increasing the biodiversity on their land, as well as praying and campaigning together.

Ruth Jarman, from Green Christian, said: “If we really understood what we say every Sunday, that God created the heavens and the earth, and that it has been given to us to care for, we would be living in a very different way.

“The Bible is very clear about how we should be living — our treasure should be in heaven, not on earth. We shouldn’t be focusing on wealth and possessions and economic growth. Economic growth is the god of our time. If everybody of faith only saw that, this would be a very different world, and we would not be trashing it the way that we are.”

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