The People’s Pilgrimage to Paris

Andy Bowerman, formerly Rector of Wareham in the Diocese of Salisbury and now an Associate Priest in the Diocese of Bath and Wells, is co-Director of the Anglican Alliance. In this reflection Andy explains why he is joining the People’s Pilgrimage to Paris to encourage world leaders to take decisive action on climate change when they meet in Paris in December. People are being encouraged to sign up from all over the globe – and if at all possible they are being asked to walk or ride to the French capital. 

Peoples-Pilgrimage---Every-Step-counts-Yeb-Photo

“I have always had something of a fascination with pilgrimages,” says Revd Bowerman. “This started long before I became a Christian. It was probably in part due to having to read the Canterbury Tales at school – I still sometimes baffle my children by quoting the Wife of Bath – and in part due to discovering the Camino de Santiago beautifully described by Paulo Coelho in his book The Pilgrimage. I have over the years made one or two spiritual journeys of my own. Although mostly these days I make do with my annual pilgrimage to Lords for the cricket.”

This week Andy has signed up for a new Pilgrimage – a journey to Paris in which it is hoped that thousands will take part, helping to achieve real progress on climate issues.

Perhaps you would like to join us?

Andy is joining the people’s pilgrimage to Paris to encourage the world’s leaders to take decisive action on climate change when they meet later this year. People are being encouraged to sign up from all over the globe – and if at all possible they are being asked to walk or ride to Paris, the French capital, where the climate summit will be held.

“Yeb” Saño, who was climate change commissioner for his native Philippines, grabbed the limelight at last year’s U.N. climate talks with emotional pleas for action. On Wednesday 20 May he stepped out to lead a “pilgrimage” to parts of the world hit by climate impacts before embarking with others on a pilgrimage towards Paris in the late autumn. “Yeb” Saño continues his pilgrimage this week visiting cylcone affected Vanuatu before moving on to Australia.

“Another who is speaking out is Archbishop Winston Halapua from Fiji,” says Andy Bowerman. “As the Archbishop of Polynesia he has seen and experienced firsthand the devastating effects on fragile coastal communities that the changing climate is bringing” – as seen in the photograph.

“I sincerely feel that the battle on climate change cannot be won merely within the confines of the institutions we have built and the boundaries of our own countries,” Archbishop Winston said. “I will be encouraging as many as possible to join the pilgrimage to highlight the issue of climate change, with the fervent hope that it rallies people and communities towards building a more just, sustainable and peaceful world.” 

Last year Archbishop Winston spoke out, calling for G20 leaders to tackle climate change when they met in Brisbane.

Across the Anglican Communion people have the chance to join this movement, ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris later in the year.

“While Archbishop Winston is not coming to Paris, his voice is. The Anglican Alliance is gathering hundreds of voices and words from around the globe. It will then symbolically take them to Paris – on tee-shirts, hats, banners and whatever else we can print them on,” says Andy. “You could be with us in Paris, either in person or by sending us your message for the pilgrims to carry with them. We especially want to gather the voices of those who are personally vulnerable to the impact of climate change.”

Many commentators are suggesting that civil society mobilisation on climate change around the world towards the Paris meetings will be unprecedented, more courageous, more uncompromising, more creative than anything we have seen before.

“I was fortunate to meet both Saño & Archbishop Winston last summer and they certainly inspired me to do more than simply talk,” says Revd Andy Bowerman, Anglican Alliance lead on climate justice. “I’ve set off for my first couple of preliminary rides to begin the preparation for the 380 mile trip to Paris. What about you? “

There are many pilgrimages going on now, to places affected by climate change, to sites contributing to climate change such as power stations and places where positive steps are being taken to reduce climate change, such as renewable power plants. It is hoped that these pilgrimages will culminate in two concurrent journeys to Paris: the first a 1,000 mile, 60-day walk or 14 day ride from Rome and the second a 300 mile, 20 day walk or 4 day cycle from London. Both pilgrimages will end in Paris, where world leaders meet on 30 November for the UN Climate Change Conference, to forge a new global agreement to tackle climate change.

Andy says “You don’t need to be religious, but I can assure you that if you partake in anything of this nature it will always be spiritual.”

If you would like Andy and others to carry your voice to Paris, please send your message to:

anglicanalliance@aco.org

Information about the work of the Anglican Alliance is available on their website here.

The People’s Pilgrimage has its own website here.

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