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Peaceful demonstrations and speaking out on climate

Tearfund’s Director of Advocacy and Influencing Ruth Valerio on the church’s call to take action.

Written by Ruth Valerio | 21 Mar 2023

Ruth Valerio leading a prayer on Faith Bridge as part of a demonstration against climate change.

Tearfund's Ruth Valerio with other faith leaders at Lambeth Bridge during a peaceful demonstration in 2019. Ruth will be helping to lead a church service as part of The Big One event in April. Image credit: Kiran Rai.

It can be overwhelming to think of the scale of the climate crisis, let alone how we should respond to it. What can we do to help? Will our actions make a difference?

In 2019 I gave a speech on the ‘Faith Bridge’ at Lambeth Bridge. This was the coming together of multi-faith groups from across the UK, joining in peaceful protest and non-violent disobedience to call for urgent, meaningful action on the climate crisis. It was a powerful experience to join a crowd of people praying and speaking out for climate justice for those living in poverty and for God’s creation.

Now, as I prepare to join Christian Climate Action at The Big One from Friday 21 April, I've been reminded of how important it is for us as Christians to come together and use our voice.

The Big One is different from other actions – it is not a rebellion, has been organised with police facilitation, and is designed to include everyone. I will be helping to lead the ‘No faith in fossil fuels’ church service with other Christians at St John’s Waterloo, and then we will walk to join 100,000 people on the streets of Westminster. Events like this are a wonderful opportunity for us to get to know and encourage one another and add our voices and prayers to the call that’s going out.

Creation groans

The climate crisis is devastating the lives of those living in poverty. A colleague who recently returned from northern Kenya was telling me how people are surviving on emergency porridge because their crops have failed; how elephants and wild animals are storming water catchments and food gardens near tanks because they are desperate for water, and how the five years of drought has become a crisis of survival for both people and animals.

Our world leaders need to take urgent action to reduce carbon emissions and stop the crisis from getting worse. And as the church, we have a huge part to play in speaking out to governments, politicians and businesses, to call on them to put policies and practices in place that don’t harm creation and people living in poverty.

Psalm 146 declares that God is ‘the Maker of heaven and earth’. It says he upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. Engaging with God’s heart for his creation and for his people is part of our Christian discipleship. And in the 30 years I’ve been working with the church on the issue of environment care, I’ve been encouraged to see more and more Christians rightly respond to the climate crisis, both in making changes in their own lives and in speaking out. But there is so much more we need to do.

Ruth Valerio is leading the No faith in fossil fuels church service on Friday 21 April 2023

Ruth is Tearfund's Director of Advocacy and Influencing. Image credit: Elizabeth Perry

No time for silence

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that sometimes the role of the church is ‘not just to bandage the victims under the wheel, but to put a spoke in the wheel itself’. Events like The Big One aim to do that, to make a statement so bold that those in the seat of power are moved to make change happen and stop the wheel in its tracks.

For me, events like these are an avenue to express the urgency of the situation and do something to take action. It can feel overwhelming and hopeless, and I want to be part of a movement pushing for change, not just throwing up my hands in desperation.

Responding to the call

I sometimes think of the church as a sleeping giant: we’re starting to stir from our slumber, but if we could really wake up, we would be a massive force for good. I wonder if even more of us gathered in solidarity and raised our voices at demonstrations like the Faith Bridge and The Big One, what change from our governments and justice for those in poverty we might yet see.

I’ll be passing the word on about this event to others. There is something very powerful about praying and singing together outside Westminster! Let’s add our voices to those of 100,000 others, and pray that we don’t leave a world behind that is decimated and impoverished.

Proverbs 31:8–9 tells us: ‘Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.’ I believe we can be bold in our response to that command, as we take action on the climate crisis to see the world become a fairer place.


Join the 'No faith in fossil fuels' church service on Friday 21 April at St John's church, Waterloo.

Written by

Written by  Ruth Valerio

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