Reflections on meeting the Young Christian Climate Walkers in Birmingham

This week the Relay to COP26 arrived in Glasgow bringing the Young Christian Climate Network’s message of climate justice to the UN conference. Toqueer, a volunteer with Footsteps and Birmingham Friends of The Earth, reflects on meeting the walkers as they passed through Birmingham earlier this year, in an article originally published on the BFoE website.

Peace be to you, an Islamic greeting to all. My name is Toqueer Ahmed Quyyam, a Footsteps and Birmingham Friends Of The Earth volunteer for the last few years. I would like to share my reflections of meeting the Young Christian Climate Walkers, who are, ’’action focused Christians in the UK aged 18-30 in the pursuit of climate justice’’. Walking as part of a climate awareness pilgrimage from Cornwall to Glasgow, with people joining from different parts of the country at various intervals on their journey.

Day 1: Monday 23 September
I met fellow Footsteps members at the Warehouse cafe, where we had lunch, before we all left to meet the Young Christian Climate Walkers outside St Phillips Cathedral. Once we arrived there were people gathered, so I decided to say hello. A woman I spoke to said she came from  Nottingham. She heard that the walkers were arriving in Birmingham and thought she would come along with her husband to welcome them. As we spoke, a boat of humility (if i may say so) , a makeshift boat made from a collection of a basket, pieces of wood joined together by rope and a decorated sheet for the sail, was right outside the church, with around 20 people gathered around it. There were  walkers, not all young, some middle aged, some old, men and women, were having their pictures taken. A member of the walkers came over to me and asked if I would like to be on video, I said yes and shared my own journey as a Muslim green activist in supporting the environment. The walkers were friendly and polite and I was made to feel welcome too. It was time to leave and there were two more days left to get involved.

Day 2: Tuesday 24th September
I received an email from a Footsteps senior team member asking if I could help carry the boat to St Phillips Cathedral. I agreed, it was a lovely opportunity to meet some of the Young Climate Walkers and find out more about their motivations and any interesting stories they had of their journey.  As I arrived at Carrs Lane Church to help, there were others waiting too. We chatted till all of the volunteers had arrived. The boat was very interesting, not just to look at and the way it was made, but also because it did not have any steering. We had to steer it ourselves all the way to St Phillips where we were going to meet Councillors and have an open discussion about the future direction we wanted the green agenda to go in. We found out that all councillors were busy and so the Walkers decided to share their green vision instead. I was invited to speak, this was kind of them. I welcomed them and shared my own aspirations of all faiths working together for the greater good. It was well received and people did come over to me later to speak to me and find out more about me and my work. Day 2 was coming to an end and I decided to call it a day and went home.

Day 3: Wednesday 25th September
The final day had arrived, the day the Walkers would take their on- going journey onwards. Before the departure, there was a special boat blessing which we had all been waiting for. Again we all met outside St Phillips Cathedral and walked towards the Town Hall at 3pm. Myself and other faith representatives were given the opportunity to speak, it was really lovely to hear the speakers from the diverse faiths. It was my turn, I was a bit nervous but took a deep breath and shared my vision for a green and fairer future for all. It was well received by the many who were present. There were Buddhist members who sang, we were encouraged to join in and we did, it was so much fun. It was time to say my goodbyes. I went over to the Walkers, wished them well and then went home. Three days of memories I shall cherish. I recommend people from all faiths to come together, this is our future, together we can create the better and greener future we need. Believe in better I say, act now and just like the Walkers one step at a time can take you a long way, we can do it together and enjoy the journey too. 

The demands of the Young Christian Climate Network:

  1. The climate walkers are calling for four actions by the UK government: they reinstate foreign aid budget to pre-COVID levels 
  2. Secure agreement from rich countries to at least double the decade-old Promise of $100bn a year for climate finance
  3. Ensure finance for climate-induced loss and damage
  4. Push for debt cancellation so climate-vulnerable nations can better confront the climate crisis and other urgent priorities

Inspiration for the boat: This is a particularly pertinent symbol because about ten percent of the world’s population, or 770 million people, today live on land less than five metres above the high tide line. These coastal communities are especially vulnerable to extreme weather events such as floods and tropical cyclones. 

For further info:
https://www.yccn.uk/home
Twitter: @yccnetwork
Facebook: @yccnetwork community
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/yccnetwork/

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