COP 28: in France, the fate of the planet mobilizes young Christians

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They are young, committed to social justice and ecology and advocate a non-violent mode of action in accordance with their faith: Christian activists are increasing the number of climate alerts in France.

On this autumn morning, the cold did not dissuade the forty members of the Lutte et contemplation collective from meeting in front of the TotalEnergies headquarters in La Défense, near Paris, to denounce, in silence and for an hour, a pipeline project in Africa. 

Before rushing into the tower, the employees take a curious look at the group gathered around a single candle. “It’s disconcerting, but we have few cynical or mocking reactions,” assures Charlotte, an activist from the start who does not wish to give her last name.

On Thursday, new “circles of silence” are planned, notably in Lyon, to mark the launch of COP 28 in Dubai. 

It is about carrying out “a joyful, creative and non-violent struggle” explains Benoît Halgand, one of the spokespersons for this collective of predominantly Catholic Christians, officially launched in September.

Pope Francis, who made the defense of the environment one of the pillars of his pontificate, finally gave up participating in the COP for medical reasons. But he again warned on Sunday against “the climate threat” which “endangers life on Earth”.

The Church “in the service of the earth”

Claiming 200 to 300 participants in its actions, the Lutte et contemplation collective reflects a minority trend within the Church. But participation "is increasing all the time", we assure, with eight groups launched or under construction in Strasbourg, Lyon or Nantes.

These young people, who had already addressed the French bishops on the climate in a column in the Catholic daily La Croix in October 2022, clearly support the vision of "ecological conversion" developed by the Argentine pope in his encyclical "Laudato Si'".

“He feels that this is the path that the Church must take. If it does not put itself at the service of the Earth and the poorest, it will continue to decline,” affirms Benoît Halgand.

Within the Church, ecological concern has already given rise to several initiatives: blogs exist, a “Green Church” label was launched in 2018 and the ecumenical movement “Christians united for the Earth” has combined faith and ecology since 2012. .

The Extinction Rebellion movement also has a “spiritualities” branch.

“Emancipation” 

Struggle and contemplation "was also born from the desire for things to move", continues Charlotte, because among these activists aged 20 to 30 "there is a very strong awareness and the feeling that we really have to act otherwise things will not change. don't move." 

“This ecological crisis puts us back into a spiritual approach, it forces us to ask ourselves existential questions, and Christians have answers to provide,” adds Benoît Halgand, who sees in ecological disasters a “junction point” between faith and defense of the environment.

If the collective refuses to position itself on the left-right axis, “it is about being in ecological and social justice”, adds the spokesperson.

Himself a graduate of Polytechnique, he is, at the age of 25, one of those “differers” who preferred the quest for meaning to the comfort of a great career.

“We are going to experience many more crises, it will be hard, but we can take advantage of it to free ourselves from a certain number of constraints,” he says.

At a time when certain ecological activists are throwing soup on tables to alert the public, Lutte et contemplation calls for a less spectacular mode of action.

“We do not want to be part of the cult of efficiency or a race for ever more activism,” adds the spokesperson.

Which supposes integrating "a form of helplessness", of "not entering into the logic" of the figures used by multinationals to convince: "by a simple silent presence, we can also nourish something."

Writing (with AFP) 

Image credit: Shutterstock / Valmedia

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