On Friday, September 25, after a long break due to COVID-19, the youth and highschool leaders of the worldwide “Fridays for future” movement invited everyone to take the streets again. And they all have come back: The elderly and the younger ones, families and singles, college students and church goers. I was with them - with my young daughter - in the streets of my city Mannheim. Strikes took place in almost every other German town. What a ray of hope!
During these strikes here in Germany, we witnessed about 200.000 people marching, cycling and demonstrating in more than 450 cities and villages. Despite the global pandemic and the restrictive measures to avoid further COVID infections, none of the outdoor demonstrations were stopped. This was because this young climate movement was very organized: social distancing (easiest if you were on a bicycle), mouth protection and respectful demonstrating in the streets. We can learn from their well-organized and responsible behaviour. However, when it comes to naming and blaming the reasons for human induced climate change, they were less restrained - appropriately so.
In Mannheim, over 2000 people gathered for peaceful protests, carrying demands for political, institutional and individual change on their posters.
People of faith and spirit were an important part of the demonstrations.
“Churches need to be political and be part of the overdue changes in our economic and ecological world systems. Churches should care for our worldwide community.” said Helena Funk. She is a theology student and member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Northern Germany. In 2018, Helena joined GreenFaiths “Living the Change” campaign and hosted a multifaith dinner at her students home to talk about sustainable lifestyle changes. For this climate strike, together with a group of theology students and young missionaries, she organised a church event and open-air gallery of climate strike posters in the German city of Leipzig. The chosen spot was St. Nicolas church – a place full of symbolism, since the peaceful revolution in Leipzig started here in 1989. Their statement reads, “We are calling for climate justice and for sustainable lifestyles. We are calling for a church that is also going to be a church to future generations.”
Meanwhile in Mannheim, over 500 bicycles gathered in the historic courtyard of the City Castle. They clipped posters on their bikes calling for “System Change, not Climate Change” and “Climate Justice Now”. Young speakers demanded that the local coal power plant - the largest hard coal-fired power station in Germany - must be powered down and replaced by renewable energy sources. And at the national level, Fridays for Future is demanding 100% renewable energy by 2035. This is not only about taking the streets. This generation is ready for changes at many levels.
This is where I feel closely connected. We need movements, we need creative and bold action, we need changes at the personal, institutional and systemic levels. As people of faith and spirit, coming together as GreenFaith, we are ready to join hands with those who strive for climate justice with their hearts, hands and heads.
Our new GreenFaith Mission Statement reads, in part:
“Together our members create communities to transform ourselves, our spiritual institutions, and society to protect the planet and create a compassionate, loving and just world.”
We know we can do this, together.