On Saturday 5th December, as I was watching the evening news, two items caught my attention. The first was that there had been 2 million people shopping on Oxford Street and Regent Street in London that day – boy, was I glad I hadn’t been there! The other bit of news was that, on that same day, 30 thousand people had taken part in The Wave, also in London, on the eve of international climate talks in Copenhagen. The second Sunday in Advent was just beginning, and the news made me feel a bit like John the Baptist, because I had been part of that smaller number, raising a prophetic voice promoting solidarity and sustainability.
As three o-clock approached, as we encircled the Houses of Parliament and waved to catch the attention of Gordon Brown, I was standing under Big Ben at the corner of Parliament Square with a small group of friends, singing Christmas carols. Not any ordinary Christmas carols, mind, but specially adapted ones with environmental words. We sang about Frosty the Snowman, melting because the world’s temperature was increasing, and adapted the Twelve Days of Christmas to sing about ‘2 melting ice caps and a non-binding climate treaty.’ Our songs brought a smile to the faces of the marchers as they came into the square and I couldn’t help feeling that it was quite a Salesian thing to be doing.
I must admit, though, that the highlight of the day for me had been between 10 and 1.30 when, along with ten or so Salesian friends, I’d been in the basement of Westminster Central Hall on the opposite corner of the square, helping out with activities for children and young people. We’d been part of a group of about fifty CAFOD volunteers, who were hoping that the 150 or so young people who had registered to come along might grow a little in number as the day dawned. We’d hoped for maybe 300, but in the end over 600 came, making banners and hands for the Wave, recording video diaries, writing prayers for the prayer tree, and playing the Climate Change Game. I was helping out with a Climate Change timeline activity, in which we chatted with the young people about the global effects of climate change and what we could do to make a difference in our own lives. The small prophetic actions we spoke about were all to do with our use of water, to fit in with the Wave theme. It was great to chat with young people who had come from Cardiff and Hartlepool, as well as ones from Lewisham and other parts of London.
It was a day filled with laughter and good conversation, with prayer and a real feeling of togetherness, arising out of our shared commitment to a better world. Only time will tell whether we were part of a move towards a FAB deal on climate (Fair, Ambitious and Binding) but we made the news – and it was good news, the kind of news that Salesians enjoy making.