20 February 2024, The Tablet

Thousands sign up to fight poverty and climate change during Lent

The heads of Christian agencies supported a Lent ten-day, 240-hour vigil.

Thousands sign up to fight poverty and climate change during Lent

Christine Allen (right) with leaders of Green Christian, Tearfund, JPIT Team and Christian Aid attending the Lent Vigil at Westminster.
JPIT/A Rocha

Cafod’s Big Lent Walk in England and Wales kicked off on Ash Wednesday, with thousands of individuals, schools and parishes signing up to walk 200km during Lent and raise sponsorship money to help people tackling extreme poverty globally. More than 100,000 schoolchildren from more than 400 schools are taking part and more than 100 parish groups are signed up. TV personality Dermot O’Leary sent a message of support to those participating. So far, nearly 4,000 donations totalling more than £60,000 have been made towards Cafod’s target of raising £350,000 through this year’s challenge.


Christine Allen, executive director of Cafod, who is herself undertaking the walk, said: “I’m enjoying the motivation to get out and about more, and I’m spurred on knowing I’m walking alongside so many of my colleagues from around the world, like the team from Cafod’s office in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”


And Christine Allen was outside the Palace of Westminster last week as one of the heads of Christian agencies supporting a Lent ten-day, 240-hour vigil under the title, “No Faith In Fossil Fuels”. Launched on Ash Wednesday, campaigners urge “bold climate action” by the Government, including moving away from the use of oil and gas, reparation payments for damage caused by climate change in the Global South, and investment in green policies.

The lead organiser is Christian Climate Action (CCA) and other agencies involved include Cafod, Christian Aid, Green Christian and Operation Noah. The vigil ends on 24 February.


As part of the vigil the Catholic CCA group has been leading a daily Novena to Our Lady Help of Christians for Climate Justice. The Rosary is said at noon every day. Columban Sr Kate Midgley has led many of these and a Columban group was on the rota for Wednesday evening on 21 February.


Before the vigil started, more than 200 climate campaigners attended a packed ecumenical service at St John’s, Waterloo. The blessing was given by Martin Gainsborough, Anglican Bishop of Kingston, who said afterwards, it was, “very good to be part of this beautiful and well-choreographed occasion; may our hearts be so opened that our love changes everything’. Also in attendance were Olivia Graham, Anglican Bishop of Reading, and environmentalist and Green Christian patron Sir Jonathon Porritt.


The service was led by Rev’d Helen Burnett and Rev’d Canon Giles Goddard, vicar of St John’s at Waterloo. Reflections were given by Ruth Valerio, Global Advocacy and Influencing Director for Tearfund, and Pentecostal Bishop Mike Royal, General Secretary of Churches Together in England. Music was led by a Salvation Army Band and Engage Worship. Graham Kendrick’s “Beauty for Brokenness” called for justice, peace and care for God’s creation.


When participants left the service, heading to Parliament Square, the lead banner read: “Vigil for Climate Justice – No Faith in Fossil Fuels”. The blessing of the vigil on the pavement outside Parliament was by Methodist vice president Deacon Kerry Scarlett. Last Sunday a multi-faith group walked to the Gandhi statue in Parliament Square as part of the “No Faith In Fossil Fuels” vigil.


The Scottish rock band Deacon Blue helped the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund launch its annual “Wee Box, Big Change” appeal last week. This raises funds during Lent for its work in Africa, Asia and Latin America and, this year, the appeal focuses on the people of Rwanda, 30 years on from the genocide which left around one million people dead.





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