We are all here together

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Sarah Wiggins offers some reflections from Paris through the eyes of people she has spent the past week with.

‘If there is a silver lining, beautiful in this situation, it is that we are all being required to acknowledge that we are all here, we exist together.’ John Mark McMillan, Paris, December 2015

The climate talks at COP21 in Paris is a vibrant place to be. World leaders are here – people like President Hollande can be glimpsed being corralled towards their next appointments by throngs of suits, camera people and mobile-phone-shutter-happy-observers.

There are drones, helicopters and police on horseback. Transport is running well – no mean feat because 35,000+ people are being ferried about each day. It’s a slick business (apart from the long queues for baguettes and crêpes at lunch time!).

John Mark McMillan (quoted above) and three other well-known US worship leaders – Sarah McMillan, William Matthews (Bethel) and Stephen Roach (Songs of Water) (see his blog about what happened here) all came to Paris to expand their personal understanding of the issues, fully conscious of the responsibility that comes both with understanding, and with having influence through their music.

As we wandered around together, we met a plethora of people who cared passionately and are also playing their part – from child campaigners, to Amazonian Indians, to scientists, to vegetarians, to Bishops, to Presidents.

The diversity and energy of people at COP21 relays a conviction of hope and encouragement: a vast array of differences, and yet unity amongst so many people who are sincerely working to take care of our precious world and our global family.

‘Once you are made aware of something there is an individual response. …We need to say “God, now is the time to act”. Otherwise it will have repercussions.’ Stephen Roach, Paris, December 2015

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One group of people who are ardently calling on the world to act in this, the second week of the climate talks, is the leaders of the climate vulnerable countries. They are persevering in presenting a vision for a strong agreement that will make a way for us to keep global warming to below 1.5 degrees. Over 100 of the 196 countries taking part in these talks have voiced support for this. Although we know that countries’ current commitments in Paris will only get us from 4 degrees to 2.7 degrees global warming, we can still get an agreement that makes a way for us to ratchet up cuts in the coming years, so that 1.5 degrees really can be achieved. Some countries continue to oppose this goal. However, the moral imperative to care for the gift of Creation and to love our neighbour is gaining momentum.

‘As [Ireland’s former President] Mary Robinson said to us “In the Titanic, the workers went down, and the first class went down. It will affect us all some day.”’ Sarah McMillan, Paris, December 2015

With the sense of common good that permeates many civil society actions and events at COP21 it’s possible to believe we will have an outcome that can pave the way for a 1.5 degree future. From presidents, to worship leaders, to people in the pews, we all need to act out of justice and of love, to take courage and to continue to pray.

‘We have met a ton of people who have a hopeful nature. People who are fully engaged in this still say it is hopeful.’ William Matthews, Paris, December 2015

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