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Every step counts in campaign for solid climate change action

Hong Kong (SE): The People’s Pilgrimage, a global campaign for climate action was launched on June 7 in the cyclone devastated island nation of Vanuatu, by Yeb Saño, the former climate change commissioner and chief climate negotiator for The Philippines.

Initiated by the interfaith climate change campaign, OurVoices, in partnership with numerous faith and spiritual groups, People’s Pilgrimage will see people on every continent walking anywhere from few miles to across whole continents, to demonstrate deep concern about climate change issues. This unprecedented action by faith communities around the world seeks to send a clear message to world leaders to adopt a strong climate change agreement.

Hong Kong-based Asia coordinator for OurVoices, Ciara Shannon, explained, “Anyone, anywhere and at any time can take part from now until November 30, when the United Nations (UN) Climate talks (COP 21) begin in Paris.”

Saño joined OurVoices earlier this year after leaving the Philippine government to lead the People´s Pilgrimage. 

“The pilgrimage is our way of reminding the whole world about the reality of climate change and reflecting on the state of our planet. For this journey, therefore, every step counts. In our common aspiration to confront the climate crisis, we cannot afford to say that we’ll cross the bridge when we get there. We have to get there now,” he said.

The first pilgrimage activities took place in Vanuatu on June 8, as well as in Bonn, Germany. On June 12 a pilgrimage activity took place in Sydney, Australia, followed by another on June 14 at Airlie Beach, Queensland.

Saño is remembered for the emotional statement he gave on 11 November 2013 in Warsaw, Poland, at COP 19 where he was the Philippine delegate, describing the destruction of his home city of Tacloban, Leyte, by Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda).

From Vanuatu, Saño, proceeded to Sydney, Australia for the June 12 pilgrimage event, then to the Great Barrier Reef on June 13, after which he travelled to Rome to take part in an interfaith march on June 28 to celebrate the June 18 release of the Pope Francis’ encyclical on integral ecology, Laudato Si’: on Care for Our Common Home.

The pope has appealed to people to recognise their “responsibility, based on the task that God gave human beings in creation: ‘to cultivate and care for’ the ‘garden’ in which he settled us.”

In Laudato Si’ the pope says that the earth “cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will” and calls on all people to “come together to take charge of this home which has been entrusted to us.”

People will travel to key places where climate change has already had a visible impact, as well as to installations that contribute to climate change such as oil wells, pipelines, coal mines and fossil fuel fired power stations. They will also go to areas where solutions to climate change are already operating such as solar, wind and other clean technologies which are making a better future possible. 

“The People’s Pilgrimage will highlight the increasing intensity of bushfires in the Blue Mountains and the juxtaposition of coal ports alongside our iconic Great Barrier Reef. As faith communities gather to face the reality of climate change in Australia and the hardship it will bring to all creation, we are encouraged to take the next steps together as we find new paths of energy and love,” said Jacqui Rémond, executive director of Catholic Earthcare Australia.

Pilgrims will converge on Paris from across Europe in time for the opening of the COP 21 on November 30. They will demand that the agreement contain a full range of measures relating to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation to climate impacts, technology and finance and a long-term goal. 

In addition, People’s Pilgrimage will demand that the agreement ensure that the global average temperature remains below two degrees Centigrade (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, as agreed in a decision at the 2010 COP 16 in Cancún, Mexico. 

Saño will also participate in the Emerging Multifaith Leaders Climate Convergence in Rome from June 27 to July 1, then will visit Asia, Africa and north America before undertaking the 1,100 kilometre walk from Rome to Paris to join other pilgrims who will have gathered for COP 21.

News the various pilgrimage journeys will be shared online through, a special map-based storytelling platform showing the incredible diversity of faith-based climate change concern and action around the world.

Episcopalian (Anglican) Father Fletcher Harper, global coordinator of OurVoices and executive director of GreenFaith a United States of America-based religious-environmental non-government organisation, said, “Many people turn to their faith or spirituality for hope in the face of challenge and suffering. The People’s Pilgrimage is a global expression of sincere concern and calls on our world leaders to find the generosity—on all sides—and determination to reach a strong climate change treaty.”

Shannon said, “Everyone’s journey will count to a global total to represent a walk at least once around the world, so as to show our leaders how small and precious our planet is.”

In a related development, following on the heels of the June 18 release of Laudato Si’, Father Harper, told the Sunday Examiner that on June 28 “thousands of people will march from Rome’s Piazza Farnese to St. Peter’s Square before the traditional noontime Angelus to show their gratitude to Pope Francis for the new encyclical and his strong, courageous stand on climate change.” 

He said, “This document will transform how the world thinks about the climate crisis. The pope has made it clear that climate action is an act of faith, a moral duty that we all share.”

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