Bells ring, drums beat for deal on climate change

  • December 18, 2009
{mosimage}In Kingston, Ont., church bells rang in solidarity with others around the world Dec. 13 to encourage a just deal against climate change at the United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen.

The Sisters of Providence had encouraged 14 churches, temples and mosques in the Kingston area to join in with the global call for 350 bell tolls, meant to represent the 350 parts per million which scientists have said is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. If worshippers did not have bells to clang, they were encouraged to offer alternative awareness activities.

“We can’t get along without the planet,” said Sr. Pauline Lally. “We’re called to be stewards of what we’ve been given and also we are in solidarity with the planet — whatever we do to the planet we do to ourselves.”

She said churches in Kingston were encouraged to ring their bells at least 35 times at a reasonable time during the day. Kingston City Hall responded to the Sisters’ request by ringing its bells for the full 350.

In addition to the bells, Lally and close to two dozen supporters rallied at City Hall on Dec. 11 at noon in silent solidarity. The Sisters have hosted a silent vigil for social change every Friday for the past 14 years since the Ontario government cut social-assistance benefits by 21.6 per cent. They change the focus of the vigil from time to time, including the recent new focus on climate change. The Sisters always open the silent stand with the following prayer:

“For what shall we stand for today? We long for a world that respects all of humanity and all the Earth and so we stand in silent non-violent solidarity with those affected by government and corporations that put profits before humankind and indeed before all creation. Together in this vigil we bring before us injustices affecting our world. In gentle awareness we present these concerns through the divine light which permeates the universe, thus we stand in hope.” A poem about spiritual commitment was also read.

Bridget Doherty of the Sisters of Providence’s Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation office said it was important to show they are living up to their commitment to climate change, in advocating for a just, ambitious and binding agreement in Copenhagen.

“I believe it’s our moral obligation to do our best and I feel like we are certainly, with the amount of effort we put in. We’re living up to our commitment to show the world we care about climate change and that we are supporting the poor countries in the world, the most vulnerable, the ones who had very little to do with causing this crisis,” said Doherty.

Several of the sisters joined more than 60 others at a candlelight vigil held Dec. 12. The Saturday vigil in Kingston, one of 3,000 candlelight vigils held in more than 130 countries, was organized by Betty-Anne Howard, a former associate of the Sisters and a member of the online network that co-ordinated the global awareness event.

“It’s exciting because people are really wanting to do something and to make a statement that there are many people who can’t speak out,” Howard said. “This is a symbolic gesture to say that the majority of people being affected by climate change can’t speak out because they’re poor and focused on survival.

“We need a deal that is ambitious enough to leave a planet safe for us all,” she added.

KAIROS supporters in Toronto also joined in the call for action on climate change. A gathering outside of Bellefair United Church in the Beaches neighbourhood brought together people who beat on drums for climate change. The drums were used as the church doesn’t have bells.

(With files from Michael Swan.)

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