Dozens of Christians all over the UK took part in protests for a green and just recovery from Covid-19 this last weekend.
Christians of Extinction Rebellion, who go by the name of Christian Climate Action (CCA), walked out of their homes on Saturday and Sunday equipped with facemasks and cardboard signs. In areas across the UK such as Loughborough, Surrey, Brighton, Birmingham and Carmarthenshire in Wales, members stood socially distanced either alone or in clusters with a few others standing at least three meters apart. Some people gathered generally on the street and others specifically travelled to their local authorities. Members stood still, either in silence or in prayer. Their signs were brandished with slogans such as ‘no going back, change is now’, ‘come holy spirit, renew the face of the earth’ and ‘people and planet or profit and pollution’.
Rev Helen Burnett is curate at St Luke’s Church in Whyteleafe and assistant curate at St Peter and St Paul Church in Chaldon. She took part in the action by herself, holding a sign outside Reigate and Bandstead Council Offices. When explaining why she took part in the weekend, Rev Helen said,
‘Just like climate change, this pandemic is affecting the most vulnerable the hardest. As Christians we are called to speak up for the vulnerable. This is a unique time to tackle a double crisis. We need a recovery from this pandemic which puts people and planet before polluters. We need to make sure that the economic stimulus that the government has promised is used for regeneration and not destruction – jobs which are going to better our societies instead of plunging us into a deeper crisis. And this is Pentecost, where we celebrate the church at its beginning, rooted in speaking equally to all people and spreading the good news of holding all things in common’.
Fr Martin Newell is a Catholic priest of the Passionist congregation. He took part on a local high street in Balsall Heath, Birmingham, less than a mile from his home:
‘I took part to remind people that going back to “normal” is not an option, since “normal” was an emergency. The climate emergency has not gone away. The current situation has shown that it is possible to respond to an emergency with drastic action and radical changes, that return to “the way it was” does not have to be inevitable. We are acting now because this is a crucial time – how governments spend our money to bring an economic recovery, will “bake in” the pattern for the future, and decide whether the direction of the world economy is towards an ecological conversion or a global catastrophe.’
Martin described there being an, ‘overwhelmingly positive feedback from the public. Nothing negative at all on the street, only positive affirmation’. Police responded in different ways to the protest. In most parts of the UK the police watched the protest from a distance but did not intervene. In London, where individuals involved in Extinction Rebellion stood spread-out in different locations across Parliament Square, a member of CCA was issued with a penalty charge notice and some people were arrested.