Threat of climate change sees Christians take to the streets

A calling to protest against global climate change led one of our priests to take part in Extinction Rebellion's recent day of action in Leeds.

Revd Jon Swales, Mission Priest at the Lighthouse Project, Leeds, has told how he was prepared to risk arrest, such was his commitment to highlighting the plight of the planet.

“The situation we face is, as the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has said, “an existential problem for the entire global community in a way that nothing else is,” Revd Jon said. 

“On July 15, Extinction Rebellion activists drove a boat onto Victoria Bridge on Neville Street in Leeds city centre, closing off the road to cars. Once the boat had been secured, they proceeded to camp on the site until Friday, July 19. Throughout the week they sought to engage the wider public through workshops on the climate emergency, training sessions on non-violent direct action and handing out free food whilst entertaining passers-by with music.

“I, along with Revd Ruth Newton and several other Christians, decided to join them," said Revd Jon, pictured beside the boat with Revd Ruth. 

“My decision to be involved came after several months of deep reflection on the latest climate science and asking myself what allegiance to Jesus means in this context,” Jon writes in an essay that now features on the diocesan website’s Environment pages.

“I was prepared, if  needs be, to face arrest if the police made the decision to clear the area.

“It turned out that no arrests were made but I’m grateful for the opportunity as a  Church Leader to participate in print, radio and tv interviews about the issue of climate change. 

“The scriptures speak of justice being at the heart of God (Isaiah 61:8) and therefore justice ought to be at the heart of christian reflection and action.

“As Extinction Rebellion recognise, this issue is one of justice: it is predominantly the rich, Western countries which have caused climate change, while it is the developing nations that suffer the brunt of its effects. Western countries also have the resources to blunt the effects they suffer from climate change, whereas many countries in the Global South do not have this privilege. 

Regarding the use of controversial acts of protest which cause civil disruption, Revd Jon said: “As Rowan Williams reflected in response to Extinction Rebellion, ‘it might just work; it might allow a new space and a new imagination to flower in the face of incipient tragedy’”. 

If you wish to read Jon's full article, please follow this link. 

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