Major global Catholic institutions convened an international gathering of Catholic activists coinciding with the UN climate talks in Poland. The gathering explored personal stories from the front lines of the climate crisis and brought out a Catholic response from participants. Caritas Internationalis, the Confederation of Catholic welfare, humanitarian and development agencies, and the Archdiocese of Katowice, where the talks are located, were joined by CIDSE, Caritas Poland, Franciscans International, and Global Catholic Climate Movement in convening the event.
Speakers from the front lines of the crisis included Mercy Chirambo, Livelihoods and Climate Adaptation Officer at CADECOM (Caritas Malawi). Malawi is at risk of severe floods and drought due to climate change. Chirambo said, “as UN leaders gather together, it’s so important that we Catholics gather too. We are the ones whose lives are at risk as the world gets hotter. Our faith teaches us to care for each other, and that applies to climate change too.”
Chiara Martinelli, Executive Advisor for CIDSE and one of the organisers of the gathering said “So many young people came together today fostering hope for the climate movement. Their commitment shows that we can all be agents for change in our own lives and make a difference starting from our communities. Catholics are going the distance in the struggle for climate justice; they gather their strength from the love for this Earth, from one another, and from the certainty that they are doing the right thing.”
A Holy Mass and a meeting with the Archbishop of Katowice, Msgr. Wiktor Paweł Skworc, were part of the programme and motivated the volunteers while creating a connection with the local church. After renewing their faith commitment, participants listened to each other’s stories, shared their experiences of “ecological conversion” and made concrete commitments to sustainable lifestyles and climate justice.
Catholic COP24 delegates with Archbishop of Katowice; © Rosie Heaton
Commitments shared by participants were for instance: “to always be aware of my role as part of creation and caring for others around me”, “to reach out to as many young people as I can, with the message of Laudato Si’ and of ecological conversion”, or again “to buy a bike and to cycle more” or “to eat less meat” and “inspire change and raise the voice of the poor”.
The participants reflected about solidarity with people affected by climate change. Susannah from the Saminourra people of Sweden said: “We get the strength to commit from doing it together and from the support shown by people who share our concerns. That we are not the only ones struggling and suffering. Also, from knowing that if we lead the way we can inspire others to do the same.”
Campaigners from across Europe learn from each other in spiritual day.
© Rosie Heaton
The participants’ messages of solidarity with the vulnerable are especially relevant to Human Rights Day, 10 December, which this year coincides with the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. This recurrence is very significant, reminding everyone – in particular negotiating Parties at these climate talks – that climate change is a threat to livelihoods and to the enjoyment of human rights, such as the right to adequate food, water, health, housing etc. On the other hand, the measures adopted by governments to address climate change must ensure that human rights are fulfilled. For example, meaningful public participation of affected communities is essential in all stages (creation, implementation and assessment) of climate policies and programs.
With only one week to go before the end of the climate change conference, the volunteers hope that COP24 will conclude with substantial commitments in solidarity with the most vulnerable populations affected by climate change and with a clear and ambitious plan for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
Note to the Editors: from 6 to10 December 2018, a delegation of 100 young volunteers gathered in Katowice for an “Agora” organised by the CIDSE campaign “Change for the Planet - Care for the People” on sustainable lifestyles. Further information about CIDSE activities during COP24 in Katowice can be found here.
Contact: Valentina Pavarotti, Media & Communications Officer, pavarotti(at)cidse.org; +32 (0)491 39 54 75