Last weekend, thousands of Christians marched in cities across Australia for a transition to renewable energy and a safe climate. It was a landmark moment for Australian Christians.
130,000 Australians took part in our nation’s largest climate mobilisation ever, on the eve of the UN climate summit in Paris.
Before Sydney’s march began, diverse Christians including one thousand Pacific Islanders came together to pray. We sang Pacific hymns. We thanked God for all creation. There was a deep presence of solidarity and unity in the room.
We then joined 45,000 Sydney-siders and began the march. We walked with nurses, teachers and faith groups. We stood with fire fighters, farmers and first Australians. The sound of Pacific Islanders singing "we are marching in the light of God" filled the streets.
I never used to march “in the light of God”. That changed when I become friends with people who are fighting for the survival of their homelands. I never used to care. But then I learnt that you can’t make poverty history without making carbon pollution history first. I never thought of climate action as “something Christians did”. But now I know it’s something we must do.
I marched last weekend because Jesus calls us to love our neighbour. And love demands justice for people being affected by climate change today. For communities in the Carteret’s Islands already evacuating because of rising sea levels. For farmers who are struggling to feed their family due to longer and harsher drought today. For our children and grandchildren.
The Paris summit is very likely to result in progress, but fail to stop the worst impacts of climate change. That means that unless world leaders aim higher, entire countries will disappear underwater. We will destroy the Great Barrier Reef. We will secure more frequent and intense floods, bush fires, heat waves and droughts.
That's why one march isn't enough, we need a stronger movement. The U.S. Civil Rights Act wasn't passed because of one march that culminated in Martin Luther King's “I have a dream” speech. It passed because people refused to stop marching. We must keep praying and advocating with vulnerable communities for a clean energy future. Justice is not a one-time act - it’s a way of life.
The good news is that this marks a huge opportunity for the Australian church. A clean energy future is a chance to show what we’re for. Standing with the vulnerable is a chance to live more like Jesus. Being on the right side of history on this issue will help to show young people that Christianity is relevant.
The People's Climate March is a picture of the momentum already building amongst Australian Christians. Churches are divesting from fossil fuels and putting up solar panels. Christians are organising climate justice conferences and webinars. Catholics are putting into practice Pope Francis's ground breaking encyclical “Laudato Si”. Church leaders are speaking into the public conversation in support of clean energy.
This is just the beginning. Let's keep joining God in loving the world.
Jody Lightfoot is the Campaigns Coordinator at World Vision and Climate Justice Coordinator at Common Grace. He sits on Micah Australia's Campaign Strategy Group.