‘Pilgrimage to Paris – and Beyond’

BCAG imageThis article was written by Marilyn Hull, a member of the The Birmingham Climate Action Group.

Members of  The BCAG group took part in a pilgrimage to Paris, at the time of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December 2015.


‘You get to know people quite quickly when you’re all sleeping on the floor of a church hall, and there are two toilets between all of you.  And walking ten hours a day gives a lot of time for conversations…….’ Revd Giles Goddard

“Pilgrimage seems to be coming back into fashion. Deaneries all around Birmingham have enjoyed a series of stimulating and moving visits to our Cathedral church as part of its 300th anniversary celebrations. On 13th November, the day of the Paris attacks, another pilgrimage set out to walk the 200 miles from St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, to Paris for the start of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP21.

“In this startling coincidence of events pilgrims had to quickly reconsider the whole situation: whether to continue, whether there were security considerations or simply practical problems. With many questions hanging they went anyway.

“The feedback from their experience confirms a good decision. This very visceral, violent and immediate event not only played through in quiet conversation along the way, and in prayer offered for victims and perpetrators, but also in the speeches which opened the Paris talks. Articulated again and again was the fact that climate change is fundamentally tied up with the injustices of a world economy that creates inequality, leading to poverty, war and displacement of peoples.

“President Obama neatly summed up the urgency of the threat posed by climate change, ‘the trend that affects all trends’, in his opening speech: ‘I believe, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that there is such a thing as being too late. And when it comes to climate change, that hour is almost upon us. But if we act here, if we act now, if we place our own short-term interests behind the air that our young people will breathe, and the food that they will eat, and the water that they will drink, and the hopes and dreams that sustain their lives, then we won’t be too late for them.’

Pilgrimage to Paris“In the face of massive and complex global threats, where individually we feel so small, we might recognise in the idea of pilgrimage a metaphor for the power of faith as resistance. A few people walking, in solidarity, with a purpose towards a common destination. A few people joined by another stream, and another, and another.

“One of the London pilgrims, Jean Leston, described the moving moment during the great multi-faith celebration that closed the pilgrimage when 1.8 million signatures, collected from faith groups around the world, was presented to the lead UN negotiator, Christiana Figueres, who promptly burst into tears. This was the extraordinary power of many small actions patiently put together in the faith and conviction that every single one of us can make that difference. Presumably that many signatures begins to look like you have something to bargain with.

Operation Noah logo“If you are interested in reading more about the Pilgrimage and other outcomes from COP21 take a look at the website of Operation Noah, an ecumenical charity based in UK (operationnoah.org). It is one of the many organisations involved in the struggle for a sustainable world. The website offers a series of extremely well-written, science-informed and theologically sharp – and very accessible – resources.

“And finally, a reflection on the nature of pilgrimage from someone who took part: Harry told me about the three stages of pilgrimage-what another pilgrim on the Camino had told him.”

The first stage is pain. Boy could I identify with that! But if you can break through the pain barrier it frees you up to enter the second phase.

The second stage is one of spiritual awakening. You stop listening to your body complaining all the time and start focusing on what’s around you, letting your mind become more open and prayerful. You notice and feel more. You become more contemplative.

The third stage is growing closer to God. That’s the transformational power of pilgrimage. It’s when you start talking to God in prayer and hearing his voice instead of your own. That’s when you discover that Jesus really is in your midst.


Marilyn Hull, Birmingham Climate Action Group




















19th Jan 2016 Posted in: News by Stella Jennings 0

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