Paris climate change hopes
Baptist minister cites Joshua after walking from London to Paris
A Baptist minister who walked from London to Paris ahead of the crucial COP21 climate summit has spoken of his hopes that a fair and binding climate change deal may be reached.
The Revd Kevin Durrant (pictured front row, white hat) and wife Ros (front row, right) have just returned home after taking part in a two-week, 200-mile pilgrimage from the British to the French capital.
In Paris they joined others who have trekked from around the world for the start of the COP21 gathering on 30 November, which aims to thrash out a legally binding and universal agreement on climate.
It was calculated that the pilgrims had collectively travelled a total of 280,000 miles, the equivalent of seven times around the world.
‘There are echoes of Joshua here,’ said Kevin, minister of Matson Baptist Church in Gloucestershire, ‘and it's our hope that some walls come crashing down.
‘We continue to pray that delegates at the conference will think about this seriously and reach an agreement that is both tough enough, and will be implemented.
‘At the moment there are some encouraging, and discouraging signs.’
Kevin and Ros were part of the 'Pilgrimage to Paris' organised by the Church of England, Christian Aid, Cafod and Tearfund in an act of solidarity with those most affected by climate change. The pilgrimage was supported by Baptists Together.
The couple have long been concerned about the environment and see creation care as part of God’s salvation, not a distraction from it. Their church is aiming to become an A Rocha-accredited ecochurch congregation, and Kevin is the author of The Earth Will Teach You, a book based around a sermon series on climate change.
At the Hay Festival earlier this year Ros was challenged by a talk from Nicholas Stern – author of the Stern report – who argued that faith communities should be doing more in terms of lobbying governments.
When Kevin (pictured front right) saw the pilgrimage highlighted in the Joint Public Issues Team’s newsletter, he realised it was time “to put our feet where our hearts have been”.
The walk took the party from London to Newhaven, and once in France they followed a disused railway line from Dieppe to Paris that has been converted into a cycle route. They stayed mostly in church halls, which provided an evening meal and breakfast. On a number of occasions in France a host family took them in.
The group consisted of around 30 walkers, drawn from several denominations and faiths (there was one Buddhist).
‘I was unsure how we’d cope with the walking,’ said Kevin, ‘we’re normally Sunday afternoon walkers doing three or four miles in the Cotswolds.
‘But it went better than anticipated. Some days were undeniably tough – 20 miles in bad weather – but others were better and we were able to enjoy God’s creation. The group got on really well – we all shared the same bond. I learnt a lot about generous hospitality, and while I thought we lived frugal lives, we can live fulfilling lives on a lot less.’
They had been due to take part in a significant march in the capital, but this was cancelled following the recent terrorist attacks.
Nevertheless, they were able to join the hundreds of other pilgrims in the ‘Faith in Climate Justice’ event in Saint-Denis, northern Paris, to witness the delivery of a collection of faith-based petitions signed by 1,780,528 million people worldwide who want to see decisive climate action at the COP21 summit.
The petitions were received in person by the executive secretary of the UNFCCC (United Nations Frameworks for the Convention on Climate Change), Christiana Figueres and Special Envoy of the French President for the Protection of the Planet, Nicolas Hulot.
Ms Figueres was moved to tears by the occasion. She thanked the thousands of people who had walked, cycled and marched worldwide to express solidarity with communities hit by climate-related impacts and to urge leaders to seal a fair, ambitious and binding deal that curbs global warming and helps poor countries adapt to their changing climate.
She said, 'I would like to thank you for your messages, for almost 2 million signatures, for your walking, for your praying, for your singing, for being who you are… There were people walking in every continent, making a total of 280,000km: that is the equivalent of having walked seven times around the world. I want to thank you for every single step, because with every step you have shown that it is possible to tread lightly in this our beautiful planet.'