Starting in New Delhi a few months ago and walking the last leg from Rome to Paris, climate pilgrims pray for a strong deal

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Greg, a climate pilgrim, standing next to a mural he painted demanding climate justice (Image by Lydia McMullen-Laird)

While world leaders struggle to reach an effective deal to save the planet from rising temperatures, a group of people went on a pilgrimage to voice their concern about the impacts of climate change.

Eighteen people marched from Rome to Paris – the city hosting this year’s UN climate summit. Their mission – to spread the message of climate vulnerability and justice, in the hope that this would lead to a strong climate deal.

This pilgrimage of a different kind called for people across all faiths to join hands. The movement was led by Yeb Sano, former Vice-Minister, Climate Change Commissioner and chief climate negotiator for the Philippines. Sano gave it all up after cyclone Haiyan tore through his home town and left thousands dead. He has turned into a multi-faith climate crusader.

Explaining his transformation, Sano said, “I did not want to go on being a cog in the machine. I wanted to live my Catholic faith by joining civil society action. I am bringing a message of hope from people around the world for a climate deal which meets the urgent challenge we face in all its aspects.”

The pilgrims walked around 1,500 km through Italy, Switzerland and France, crossing 40 towns, sleeping in churches and gymnasiums, getting their meals and logistical support from local religious and green groups.

Desiree Llanos was one of the 18 pilgrims. She told indiaclimatedialogue.net, “There are just 200 world leaders but seven billion people in the world. We should all be reminded of our power to change things and not just rely on world leaders. That is the power of a pilgrimage like this.”

She had found the walk refreshing. It helped her to “meet people in Italian and French towns and share what was happening in the Philippines at a very personal level.” The Philippines archipelago has been subjected to multiple devastating typhoons in recent years.

Along the pilgrims’ route and across the world, thousands joined the initiative by registering for the campaign. They marched in their own countries for a total of 280,000 km, seven rounds of the planet.

The pilgrims painted a mural in Paris as a tribute to Agid, a man who lost his life in the 2013 typhoon Haiyan. Artists among climate activists picked up brushes and spent a day painting a bright mural that drew attention to the urgent need to save the world from the effects of global warming.

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Members of People’s pilgrimage painting mural as a tribute to a typhoon victim (Image by Lydia McMullen-Laird)

Greg was a climate pilgrim busy painting a part of the mural. Asked why he had joined the movement, he told indiaclimatedialogue.net, “The Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries and every year we have at least six typhoons. I want to contribute by helping in the campaign for climate justice because I myself was a victim of a typhoon in 2009.”

As negotiations for a Paris climate agreement continued at a hectic pace, Sano and other activists met French President Francois Hollande and submitted petitions containing over 1.8 million signatures for a strong deal.

Hollande praised the group for its commitment to raise awareness about climate change. “Through the petitions, through the walks and pilgrimages, you have committed to defend life,” he told them.

Click the video below to listen to ‘Tayo Tayo’ – A pilgrims Anthem

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