Rita McManus, CAFOD volunteer who works in our Diocese, relates her experience of CAFOD’s Westminster Lobby.
On Wednesday 26 June, 14 coaches carrying CAFOD supporters converged at Westminster, to lobby MPs and ask for action on Climate Change. We came from Wales, Brighton, Liverpool, Newcastle and Hexham and East Anglia, and of course, Hallam, and all points in every direction. The early start didn’t dampen our spirits, nor did the slow crawl when we arrived in the capital. Beautiful prayers and reflections en route encouraged us enormously. Sunshine made it the perfect day to gather in such significant numbers to raise our voices and ask our representatives to take our concerns and fears about climate change, to Parliament; and not only that, but to DO something about it. We came with the message, “The Time is NOW” and at 2pm we all set off our alarm clocks to highlight that message.
Armed with our CAFOD flags, on the back of which we each wrote a personal message, we convened firstly at an interfaith gathering where many inspiring speakers gave an address, and we later attended Mass with the Bishop of Salford appropriately garbed in a simple green cassock. I have never been on a lobby, and never spoken to my MP, and my familiarity with central London is woefully poor, so I was grateful for the CAFOD friends around me. My own MP, Paul Blomfield, Sheffield Central, was at a meeting all day but emerged as promised at 4pm to spend an unhurried hour with us. The Woodland Trust, Greenpeace and Christian Aid were among so many other groups ably represented, and Paul answered our questions thoroughly, and listened to what we had to say, with honest concern. In total, 225 MPs came out to listen and talk with us, and that’s why we were there: adults, school children and young people; cheerful, hopeful and committed.
We found out later that we were the biggest Westminster lobby for about 9 years, which demonstrates how critical this is. We need action, in business, in legislation, in our cities, in our own lives, and the time is NOW. CAFOD’s CEO, Christine Allen, was present, and there was a great deal of media interest. I even found myself in front of an Associated Press journalist, answering her questions as well as I could. No idea why she picked me out. I don’t think TV presenters need fear for their jobs, but I gave it my best shot. A day of many ‘firsts’!!
Altogether, 1400 people presented their questions and asked MPs to take seriously the threat of climate change, and begin immediately to seek active solutions. Questions included: how do we reduce air travel; how can we limit our petrol fuelled car use, when bus services have been so depleted; when will supermarkets realise their responsibilities to reduce the plastic under which we are drowning; when will government start to prioritise actions and give people the information we need in order to reduce consumption and fossil fuel use; how can we be sure our government is not simply sending our waste and our carbon production overseas where they become other people’s problem?
Paul and others said what’s needed are agreed milestones so that people know how to proceed and when and what to do. The time is NOW. So, if you have a spare 5 minutes, consider writing to your MP. Even if s/he agrees with you, your support for them is much valued and gives them the impetus to carry the message forward. You can also join CAFOD’s campaign (Cafod.org.uk/climatechange) or simply go on the website to see a short film about the Lobby.
As days out go, I will remember Wednesday, 26 June as exhausting and exciting and oh so worthwhile.