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Faith in action: COP26

On the streets of Glasgow, surrounded by thousands of proactive and passionate young people, I felt the epitome of faith in action. It was one of the most profoundly powerful moments of my life – channeling my faith into the fight for climate justice.

Photo by Thom Flint (CAFOD)

In early November, I was fortunate enough to attend the protests in Glasgow for COP 26 – the annual international climate conference held by the United Nations.  I was so grateful to CAFOD for this opportunity to be alongside amazing young people from across the globe, sharing a monumental moment in history; all using our voices to spread a message that could not be ignored – we need climate justice NOW.  We left for Glasgow on the morning of Friday 5th November; on arrival we were greeted with so much love, joy and passion from the people of the city. The buzz was electric the entire weekend and, in those moments, I felt so fortunate that COP 26 was hosted in the UK. On the Friday evening we were part of a global vigil, hosted by Catholic communities across the world and livestreamed from the Ignatian Spirituality Centre in Glasgow, titled “24 Hours for the Climate”. It was 24 hours of powerful testimonies from communities who have already been experiencing the devastation of the climate crisis, as well as creative and diverse forms of prayer for hope from across the world, from the Maasai Pastoral Community in Tanzania, to Typhoon Hainan Survivors in the Philippines, to partnerships between Glasgow Churches Together and Honduras, and many, many more. Our delegation led evening prayer, and we focused our weekend on advocating for those communities whom we’d had the opportunity to bear witness to in that global vigil as we took to the streets..

Photo by Thom Flint (CAFOD)

Saturday 6th of November was the Global Day of Action, so myself and 34 other CAFOD delegates from the young-adult delegation took to the streets and marched for what we believed in, amongst 100,000 other people. Even though it was cold and raining, morale was incredibly high. We marched in the ‘faith block’ where we joined other charities and groups of religious people including Jesuit Missions, Christian Aid and SCIAF. There was so much joy and passion every step of the march and I felt on top of the world. During the protest I knew that I wasn’t walking alone, I was not only with so many other climate activists, but I was also walking for all those people who couldn’t be in Glasgow that day. I was walking for all the young people who I work with. For all of the people affected the worst by the climate crisis globally, especially the geographically vulnerable climate refugees. For all those people who couldn’t use their voices – I was walking for them.

To finish our weekend, on the Sunday we took a trip to ‘Green Zone’, the official civil society exhibition space. Here, we saw a whole range of exhibits from climate specialists, to non-profit organisations such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), as well as the newest technological inventions in battling the climate crisis. It felt amazing being surrounded by others who also had a passion for the environment; getting to go to the ‘Green Zone’ was such a privilege! I made an environmental pledge with the WWF and it gave me a lot of inspiration for the activities I can facilitate from my experience at COP.

Photo by Thom Flint (CAFOD)

And finally, the official Catholic mass for delegates, visitors and the faithful of Scotland on Sunday afternoon. Bishop Nolan of Galloway, Scotland, spoke in the homily of the current economic, political and social structures that are contributing to the escalation and acceleration of the climate crisis. A challenge to us all, to address the systemic issues in our society that are affecting communities who have done the least to cause the crisis and to rebalance our economies, lifestyles, and address unsustainable practices and inequality.

Photo by Thom Flint (CAFOD)

Overall, COP 26 proved to me something I had always believed in – that young people are undeniably passionate about climate justice. COP 26 is not the end, it’s just the beginning. Not only for me and other young Catholics putting our faith in action, but for a healthier world for generations to come. I will take this message into the schools and communities with whom I work, as our ecological and climate crisis is one that demands the attention and action of us all beyond COP26, no matter where we are on our journey.

About Lorley Shelton:

I’m a 19 year old youth worker volunteer in Derbyshire, England and am lucky enough to be part of the CAFOD ‘Step Into The Gap’ programme. Each year CAFOD runs an excellent programme which enrolls 18 to 25-year old volunteers to work alongside young people and spread CAFOD’s messages around the UK. We are all passionate about our faith and feel called to spread the good news and Catholic mission to children and young adults. We also educate others on CAFOD’s work with our global partners in our collective strive for international justice. My gap year placement is at ‘The Briars Catholic Youth Retreat Centre’ in Crich, Derbyshire, where I work for the Nottingham Diocesan Catholic Youth Service (ndcys). At The Briars we enable those who visit us to feel safe and loved and hopefully encounter Christ too. As a young catholic I am inspired by the papal encyclical Laudato Si’ and believe we are all called to the stewardship of creation. My role with CAFOD also means that I also get to travel and attend large-scale events alongside members of the global Catholic community.

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