Pilgrims for climate justice

by Guillermo Kerber Mas last modified 17 November 2015 03:11 PM
Pilgrims for climate justice

Photo: Sean Hawkey/WCC

16 November 2015

After the terrorist attacks last week, I think we can better understand the feelings of the disciples of Emmaus: sadness, lots of questions, fear, despair. But, however terrible the episode that had occurred, it didn’t paralyze them. They walked to Emmaus. Maybe they were escaping from Jerusalem, full of fear, but they walked, they were pilgrims…

I had the pleasure to join the pilgrims for climate justice when they stopped in Wuppertal, Germany some weeks ago. I also was able to meet Yeb Saño and the People’s pilgrimage when they stayed in Geneva early November. You may have read WCC press releases, blogs and tweets about them.

In many countries, especially in Europe and in Africa, people have joined a pilgrimage for climate justice walking towards the UN Conference on Climate in Paris in December (COP21). Christians have joined people from other faiths, civil society organizations to walk together looking for a fair, ambitious and binding treaty coming out from the climate negotiations as well as committing themselves to live more simply, in a more eco-friendly way, caring for God's creation, our common home.

Meeting the pilgrims was something more than sharing the same concern for climate negotiations and climate justice. It was an encounter full of inspiration of these brothers and sisters who are walking for hundreds of kilometres and as they said repeatedly, because of spiritual reasons. The pilgrimage, they said, has changed them deeply.

Every pilgrimage can be a road to Emmaus. If we look at it from our Christian spirituality a new understanding of ourselves, our expectations and frustrations, can be achieved, as the disciples of Emmaus had while walking with Jesus.

Pilgrimage is also an expression of what we are as human beings: people on the way, from birth to death. This is why pilgrimage is also a spiritual practice for Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and other faith traditions. And also for people without a religious faith, as I found out when meeting the pilgrims.

Reminding that Saint Francis was a pilgrim, pope Francis in Laudato si’ said that “Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth”.

The pilgrimage for climate justice, or more precisely the pilgrims for climate justice are showing that the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace is not only an “interesting” activity but an opportunity for many to deepen their faith, their spirituality and their commitment. It has been an opportunity to meet many “strangers” (and hopefully The Stranger), learn new things about themselves and life, make new friends and inspire those who meet them.

COP21 in Paris, as we repeatedly said, will not be the destination point. Just a milestone, a relevant one, as we have to continue our way, our pilgrimage for climate justice, our pilgrimage of justice and peace.


The impressions, hopes and ideas expressed in this blog are the contributions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or policies of the World Council of Churches.

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