Jesuit Missions join Climate Change lobby of Parliament

Students on their way to ask their MPs to take action on climate change
Students on their way to ask their MPs to take action on climate change

Thousands of people are gathering in Westminster today, 26 June, to lobby MPs with a simple and clear request for practical action to combat climate change. Jesuit Missions called students, parishioners and other supporters to join them at this mass lobby and share their concerns about climate change with leaders who can make a difference. Among those who answered this call were representatives from Wimbledon College, the Ursuline High School in Wimbledon and St Benedict’s in Ealing. Groups of young people also came from the parishes of St Anselm in Southall and St Ignatius, Stamford Hill.

The day began at 114 Mount Street, where Tim Farron, MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, encouraged the participants by showing full support for ‘The Time is Now’ initiative and giving some advice about approaching MPs, based his fourteen years of experience in Parliament. “To tackle climate change, we need a balance of hope and fear,” he said. Mr Farron reflected on the mass forced migration of people occurring around the planet, a human catastrophe that demonstrates the urgent need to tackle the problem. He cited the industrial revolution as a significant factor in climate change, as it led to an increase in human materialism that, over the years, has degenerated into overconsumption. “But that was a moment I also feel proud of. It took great human ingenuity to do what was done, the same genius we need today to tackle climate change. The Industrial Revolution wasn’t just a couple of tweets: we need that same ambition.”

Tim Farron MP

Mr Farron also spoke about the Christian inspiration behind the day’s call to action. To help our neighbours means to take care of the next generation, and the generations after that, and not to waste the resources there are now available on the planet. The MP concluded his address by pointing to the recent changes in the agenda of Parliament as a result of the action of young people around the world in recent months. “Politicians are making this a priority. What you are doing today is going to make a difference. Ask those questions, keep pushing. The time is now and tomorrow genuinely can be too late.”

Fr Provincial Damian Howard SJ expressed his gratitude to Jesuit Missions for involving the Society of Jesus in such an important initiative, which is not just a political event, but it is also deeply religious. Through a small parable, he explained the theological concept of the Universal Destination of Goods: “the resources that are available to us now are not meant for a small group of people, but for all humanity. Therefore, when we are taking more than our fair share, we are stealing, in a way, from others. We are all involved in something deeply unjust. Thank you, Jesuit Missions, for helping us to speak out clearly. And thank you for your involvement out there in the world, helping people to find better and more sustainable ways of living.” Both Fr Damian and Mr Farron highlighted the suffering of the poorest people living in vulnerable countries as a consequence of climate change, and emphasised the importance of taking steps forward in order to avoid human misery.

Fr Damian Howard SJ

Richard Greenwood, Jesuit Missions’ Outreach and Communications Manager, gave the gathered lobbyists a final reminder of some demands to make of their MPs. One is for substantial changes in the law: to phase out fossil fuels, increase investment in public transport and clean energy, and cooperate internationally.

The morning continued with a short liturgy. Lynn McWilliams, Jesuit Missions’ Outreach Coordinator, led everyone in the room in prayer with an ecological examen that focused on reconciliation with God, creation and humanity. After the reading of scripture passages by some of the participants, Paul Chitnis, Director of Jesuit Missions, concluded with a prayer of commission.

The group left just after noon to gather in Parliament Square, equipped with placards and enthusiasm, and ready to make some noise to defend God’s creation.

Jesuit Missions is launching a climate emergency appeal to make support available to countries and communities affected by climate change overseas.