Christians have been on the front lines of Extinction Rebellion protests this week – getting arrested, baptised and speaking out.
On Wednesday, members of the clergy, including the Bishop of Liverpool, came to Trafalgar Square to join the Extinction Rebellion protest. They read from Revelation. After he spoke, the Bishop of Liverpool, Paul Bayes, tweeted his support, saying that he was “standing as part of @ExtinctionR London, with many Christians, reading from Revelation in Trafalgar Square, remembering our hope in Jesus in a dark time, standing in solidarity with those of all faiths and none who see the terrible urgency of our situation as a planet.”
On Thursday, many Christians were amongst those who were arrested at London City Airport for taking a stand against unnecessary air travel. Arrestees included a Catholic priest and a nun.
Fr Martin Newell, Catholic Priest, Birmingham, 52, “I am here to help raise the alarm, to call for a profound ecological conversion. The life of God’s creation is under threat, especially the lives of God’s poor. I am here to help protect our common home, our mother, our sister which is among the most abused of our neighbours, as Pope Francis has said”.
Katrina Alton, a Sister of the St Joseph of Peace congregation in Nottingham. She said “I come from a place of real privilege and I need to pay my dues – if that means going to prison, then that’s what I will do. Otherwise our government is just not listening to us. We sat down and refused to move and we sang Amazing Grace, we prayed and said the ‘Our Father’ until we were arrested for breach of the peace and obstruction of the highway”
Earlier on in the week, Christians held Lambeth Bridge alongside other faith groups, as an interfaith site of prayer and worship. Christian NGOs, including Christian Aid, Tearfund and CAFOD, joined those on the bridge and spoke out about why they were there. Tearfund’s Head of Global Advocacy, Ruth Valerio said “As followers of the God who upholds the cause of the oppressed, it is right that we are here to add our voices and prayers to the call that is going out. Peaceful civil disobedience has strong Christian roots and history shows that it has achieved social change. We are here to pray that that will be achieved here too and that we will see climate justice for people living in poverty and for the whole of God’s creation.”
Around a dozen people reaffirmed their baptismal vows amid the Extinction Rebellion protest in Trafalgar Square on Tuesday. Using a paddling pool filled with water, Revd Jon Swales, Mission Priest at the Church of England’s Lighthouse Church in Leeds doused people’s heads with water and marked them with the sign of the cross under the shadow of Nelson’s Column. One of those reaffirming their vows was Holly-Anna Petersen, 31, a member of Christian Climate Action. She said: “I wanted to be baptised here because this is the outworking of my faith. Being here, making a stand for God’s creation, is my worship. Jesus Christ was the ultimate rebel, whose bravery in standing up against injustice led not only to his arrest but his death. Being here on the streets today feels very much like the early church”
More than a thousand people have been arrested in London so far as part of the October Rebellion. A grief procession is taking place through the capital today (Saturday).