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Cambridge Sacred People, Sacred Earth vigil to encourage ecological legislation to go through Parliament

Cambridge people of faith gathered on Parker’s Piece on March 11 to call on people of all religions to work together to make the moral case for climate action.

Campaigners call for ecological justice on Parker’s Piece. Picture: Jeremy Peters
Campaigners call for ecological justice on Parker’s Piece. Picture: Jeremy Peters

The initiative, co-ordinated by a group of Cambridge Buddhists, brought together Muslims, Quakers and multi-faith friends as part of a global day of grassroots faith action called Sacred People, Sacred Earth.

More than 300 events took place across 40 countries as part of the campaign, with demands including renewable energy, jobs and healthcare for all, net zero emissions by 2030, just contributions from wealthy countries and bold faith community leadership. A Sacred People, Sacred Earth statement was available for anyone to sign.

Over 240 religious leaders publicly support the Sacred People, Sacred Earth demands, including the Vatican’s cardinal Peter Turkson, Buddhist author Joanna Macy, the Muslim American scholar Imam Zaid Shakir, secretary general of the African Council of Religious Leaders D Francis Kuria, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Rabbi David Rosen, co-president of Religions for Peace, and Swami Chidanad Saraswati, president of Parmarth Niketan.

“Killing the planet is against all of our religions, yet that is exactly what is happening,” said Rev Dr Neddy Astudillo, a spokesperson for the GreenFaith International Network, which co-ordinated Sacred People, Sacred Earth.

“We will not stand idly by while our earth and communities are desecrated. It is reprehensible that the fossil fuel industry, governments, and even some religious institutions still support a mindset and an economy that are destroying the atmosphere, air, soils and water that make life possible. The profits of a few must stop being more important than the well being of our sacred earth and communities.”

Speaking after the event in the centre of Cambridge, one of the participants, Francesca Raphaely Ingold, said: “It was a great day. I was concerned about the strong winds but in the end short bouts of rain and hail were broken up with lots of beautiful sunshine. It was wonderful to be outside in nature again feeling the signs of spring, reflecting on my connectedness to all beings and wishing them well.”

The gentlest of protests. Picture: Jeremy Peters
The gentlest of protests. Picture: Jeremy Peters

One of the concerns highlighted by the campaigners is the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill which is making its way through Parliament.

The Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill would significantly expand the Climate Change Act 2008 via the inclusion of a new citizens’ assembly, enabling a process of deliberative democracy informed by expert advice, which many MPs find threatening. The Bill, recently tabled in Parliament as a Private Members’ Bill by a coalition of MPs from six political parties, now needs to gain the support of a majority of MPs to be passed into law.

The Bill also requires the prime minister to achieve climate and ecology objectives and gives duties to the Committee on Climate Change regarding the objectives and strategy – anathema to those who believe power requires a pyramidical structure with themselves at its apex (this includes not just politicians but corporate players, media barons and stock market expectations).

Drafted by a group of scientists, academics, lawyers and environmentalists, the Bill aims to ensure that the UK plays a proper role in limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees Celcius as per the Paris Agreement of 2015.

The Bill was originally tabled for a second reading on March 12, but has been delayed. Sittings for Private Members’ Bills have been suspended until further notice due to pressure on Parliamentary time. Only a very small number of Private Members’ Bills ever become law, and usually only with government support.

The multi-faith initiative called on Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner to support the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill as it makes its way through Parliament.

Bright sunshine for a socially distanced call for legislation to protect our collective future. Picture: Jeremy Peters
Bright sunshine for a socially distanced call for legislation to protect our collective future. Picture: Jeremy Peters

Francesca Raphaely Ingold said: “As Buddhists we try to align ourselves with reality, to alleviate our own and others’ suffering. The scientific reality of the climate and ecological emergency is absolutely clear, and it’s also clear that our leaders are not doing enough to protect us.

“For all our sakes, I would like Daniel Zeichner to do the right thing, and join the cross-party coalition of politicians who are working across their differences to bring about real change.”

Responding to the comments, Mr Zeichner said: “I am alarmed by the climate emergency and want action – which is why my actions have helped force a vote in Parliament on the issues in the Climate and Emergency Bill.

“Climate breakdown is not a distant threat but something that is happening here and now. Yet while Parliament declared an environment and climate emergency in May 2019, the Conservative government is simply not responding as the situation requires. That is why I personally tabled amendments to the Environment Bill, which Parliament is currently discussing, to try to improve it.

A multi-religious investment in collective action. Picture: Jeremy Peters
A multi-religious investment in collective action. Picture: Jeremy Peters

“I also want to ensure that while we embrace natural climate solutions, technological solutions are also fully explored.”

Buddhist Cameron Ford attended today’s Parker’s Piece action. He said: “The weather is becoming more extreme and wildlife numbers are plummeting. I’m in grief over how we’re treating our planet, it’s basically suicide.”

A Sacred People, Sacred Earth spokesperson said: “Today, at more than 400 grassroots religious actions in 45 countries, thousands of people of faith called on political and financial leaders to meet a series of ambitious climate demands at COP26, with support from over 250 high-level faith leaders.

“This largest-ever grassroots multi-faith climate day of action, co-sponsored by over 120 religious groups representing more than 100 million members, sent a clear message: world leaders are not doing nearly enough to address the climate crisis.”

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