Church bells chimed, heart chakras were recited, gongs were rung and shofars were trumpeted across the Kootenays today as churches, faith-based groups and climate activists joined together for a global chorus demanding climate action.
The cross-community event comes following the publication of Pope Francis’ recent encyclical Laudato Si (Praise Be), which urges the world to treat the earth as “a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms and embraces us.”
The controversial document, which was published in May, has inspired millions across the world while simultaneously drawing criticism from those uncomfortable with the Pope’s stance. But in Nelson, the reception has been warm.
“This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will,” Francis wrote.
“The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.”
West Kootenay participation was intended to show solidarity with the Catholics and climate activists of diverse faith who marched from Piazza Farnese in Rome to St. Peter’s Square in Vatican city to demonstrate their commitment to ameliorating the growing effects of climate disruption.
“I think it’s incredibly exciting that so many churches and faith groups in the West Kootenay immediately after the encyciclical was released all joined in the global celebration,” said the West Kootenay Ecosociety’s Montana Burgess, who was involved in organizing.
In Nelson, the Kootenay Shambhala Meditation Centre recited the heart sutra in front of the building while at the Nelson United Church congregation members lined up to ring the bell while St. Saviour’s hosted singing on the church steps.
Burgess said though the Catholic Church is leading the way, many other faith-based organizations are following suit.
Other West Kootenay institutions involved in the celebration included Trail United Church, Castlegar United Church, Beaver Valley United Church and Sacred Heart Parish.
“The Catholic Church has already had this on their radar, so the discussion has already been taking place, but in going around to the other churches I’ve seen people are really on board to take climate action locally,” said Burgess.
She said though churches and climate activists may be seen as strange bedfellows, the faithful were more enthusiastic than she expected.
“They were saying ‘now is the time we have to do this’, and they were pleased it was coming through the church as a messenger.”