Quakers join the Global Strike for Climate
With millions of young people across the world taking part in climate emergency strikes on 20th September, Anne van Staveren from Quakers in Britain tells us how those from the Quaker tradition got involved, including a meeting of stillness drawing together those from various Christian traditions and other faiths…
Hundreds of Quakers joined the global climate strike in solidarity with young people. Quaker groups from Exeter to Edinburgh turned out in numbers at local demonstrations, calling on politicians to take urgent action on the climate crisis. Swedish activist Greta Thunberg – welcomed with a standing ovation to Quakers’ Friends House in April – and a global network of young activists had invited adults to take part in ‘Fridays for Future’ school strikes.
London-based Quakers, including staff working in Friends House, held a meeting for worship outside the Treasury before joining demonstrations along Millbank.
Later, people of all faiths gathered at Westminster Quaker Meeting House to meet in stillness together. People who are Quaker, Muslim, Unitarian, Jewish and Anglican all shared prayers for the climate and hopes for the future. Seventeen-year-old Quaker Anya Nanning Ramamurthy, who organises with the UK Student Climate Network (UKSCN), spoke about how her faith leads her to act. She heard Greta Thunberg’s plea to politicians: listen to scientists.
“Climate breakdown will affect us all,” said Anya. “But those most affected and those first to be affected will be the poor, those in the global south, and the homeless. […] Our concern for justice, peace and the integrity of creation grows from our faith and cannot be separated from it. It challenges us to look again at our lifestyles and reassess our priorities and makes us realise the truth of Gandhi’s words: ‘Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means’.
“This is what calls us to act now, by striking, by standing together, by making our voice heard. As a Quaker I am called to act according to my principles and to stand up to the forces of greed and destruction that are destroying our planet, our only home, and destroying the lives of so many living things, including those yet to be born.”
Support is practical and prayerful, helping UKSCN with advocacy work and meeting space. The Economics & Sustainability team for Quakers in Britain supports Quakers with their witness on climate issues as well as calling on the government to introduce policies in line with a ‘net zero’ emissions target, including support for renewable energy, an end to fossil fuel subsidies, and trade and investment policies which support a rapid global transition away from fossil fuels.
Oliver Robertson, Head of Witness and Worship for Quakers in Britain, said: “Faith organisations have a huge role in the climate movement, by spreading awareness within our own communities, and by asking grassroots groups and those hardest hit by climate breakdown what we can do to support them.
“As the phrase ‘climate justice’ suggests, the climate crisis is bound up with global inequality, exploitation and conflict. Our responses must recognise this. The interfaith events at the climate strike and the recent mass lobby of Parliament show that we are united across faiths in our concern about the climate crisis. Together we can amplify our voices as we call for an economic transformation that puts the poorest first and recognises our duty to the global south.”
Read more about ending the UK’s contribution to climate change.
Anne van Staveren is Media Relations Officer for Quakers in Britain, known formally as the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain. Around 21,575 people attend 475 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change.
Photo credit: Ben Robinson for Quakers in Britain