Barbara Kentish (pictured centre) is the Justice and Peace worker for Westminster diocese and a CAFOD supporter. She explains here why she’s extended the practice of fasting to the first of every month, and why fasting and prayer is gaining momentum with people of all faiths as a way to highlight the need for urgent global action on climate change.
I have worked all my life for inclusion of one kind or another: race, rich and poor, gender and culture. Climate change challenges all of us to see ourselves in relation to the whole human family and to deepen our solidarity in order to address our common future.
It was my sister who first got me involved in climate change campaigning. She is an eco-theologian with a deep expertise on drought in Rajasthan. But I’ve also been influenced by close friends who have been climate advocates for decades.
Why fast and pray?
The idea of praying and fasting for the climate came from Yeb Sano, Filipino leader of his country’s delegation to the Warsaw Climate talks in 2013.
He made an impassioned speech about the devastating effects of Typhoon Haiyan in his country and pledged to fast for the climate until an effective international solution had been reached. He will also be walking from Rome to Paris in December, with a copy of the Pope’s forthcoming encyclical, in the lead up to the COP 21 climate change talks in Paris.
By fasting and praying, we as people of faith are acting in solidarity with him and inspired by his commitment.
I believe the odds, on a human level, against our achieving consensus on how to tackle climate change are so great that we need to renew our faith in God’s creating action. Fasting helps focus our minds and hearts on the essentials – that we consume too much and we need some sort of turning around or repentance in our relationship to creation.
In Westminster diocese, we’ve organised monthly Fast and Pray gatherings where we pray and break our fast together by sharing a simple meal. It has been very inspiring to meet people through these events who take climate change seriously, and see it as a way of creating solidarity with one another.
The meetings have been fairly small so far, but the people involved have all wanted to stay with the issue, and have attended regularly. We expect momentum to build up as we progress towards the Paris talks in December.
There has been one interfaith event so far, and the others so far have been at Catholic venues, including CAFOD’s Romero House office. We meet 7-9pm on the first of the month. On 1 June we are meeting at St Martin in the Fields Anglican Church in Trafalgar Square and on 1 September we are at the Finsbury Park Mosque. All are welcome and we hope you will join us in fasting and praying for the climate. Download information about how you can join a Pray and Fast event.