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Prayer and protest for climate action

Students of Gonzaga College SJ and Belvedere College SJ united once again in prayer and protest as part of the strike for Global Climate Action in Dublin on 20 September 2019. This included their participation at the Interdenominational Prayer Service at the Famine Memorial beside Custom House Quay and the protest of more than 10,000 people in Merrion Square. They were accompanied by staff of the Jesuit schools and the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice. The students gave feedback on the event, claiming that the Climate Strike Movement brings people of all backgrounds together and that it will continue to grow in size and influence.

According to Ms Siobhán McNamara, school librarian of Gonzaga College, the Gonzaga boys who attended the event live out the school’s values such as accompaniment and generosity of spirit. She says, “These four Second Year boys [who express their opinions below] volunteered to attend the strike to represent the school. There was a total of eight boys in this representative group and I accompanied them. The group joined the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice at an interfaith service before joining the other secondary school students to march to Leinster House.”

Ms McNamara continues: “As a Jesuit school we encourage all members of our community to be ‘men and women for and with others’. Our students and staff are protesting not only out of concern for their own futures, but also because climate change disproportionately affects vulnerable and disadvantaged communities worldwide and we want to advocate for them. We were all impressed by the size of the crowd and by how well-organised the event was. The young people taking part had made excellent posters (as from the main photo) and it is clear that they believe passionately that action has to be taken to prevent further climate chaos”.

The 56 Belvederians who took part in the strike were invited to carry a globe (as from the above photo) through the streets of Dublin. The students led off the many thousands of primary and secondary students, university students, other concerned adults and families following the Interdenominational Prayer Service.

“The students were exemplary”, says Mr Michael Grehan of Belvedere College. “It was challenging to carry the globe but they were greatly helped by staff members. We are most grateful to Lorna Gold of Trócaire, promoter of the Pope’s encyclical Laudato Si’, for inviting the students to take on this task.”

Referring to the peaceful protest, Mr Grehan says: “I have never seen so few Gardai in evidence at a demonstration – except the traffic police controlling the road closures. It seems to me that the Gardai quite rightly had no reason to expect any kind of trouble from these wonderfully enthusiastic – but seriously concerned young people”.

He also addresses the concern that some students may have attended the protest to “enjoy a cool event out of school”. He acknowledges that this may have been the case, but says that those who took part for a fairly superficial reason may have then been inspired by discovering the depth of other people’s commitment. He affirms, “I’m learning a very valuable lesson: In fact I think it’s one big classroom out there especially at this time in history.”

Moreover, the following comments by four Gonzaga College students show the depth of their commitment to global climate action. Their answers were were drawn from questions posed by The Irish Catholic.

Why is the climate movement important to you?

“I wanted to go to the Climate Strike on September 20th to advocate for and bring attention to all of the people who are being affected right now by climate change when they’re not even causing it. I think it’s very important that we acknowledge the people who are currently being affected and are unable to stop it for various reasons. We can quite often forget that we aren’t the only ones who are and will be affected by this crisis and I believe it is very important to think of the wider impact of the changing climate. I feel that it was a very good experience and helped me to really understand how important it is to help our climate and treat our planet and all of its people with respect.”

What did you think of the event while you were there?

“I think that the event was quite inspiring because it showed me that people care about our climate. While I was at the strike, I felt a lot of empathy and compassion all around me because people were showing that they want to save our climate and its life.”

Cormac Hannon

In your opinion, why are these climate strikes important?

“Personally I think that these strikes are important because:
a. It signifies that the younger generation cares about climate change
b. Also there were a lot of chants saying ‘we will not stop protesting until change happens.’”

Andrew Conan

What more do you think could be done to make change?

“Personally, I think that, collectively, society is to blame for climate change. Everyone likes to shift the blame to another person and that is the single biggest problem of solving climate change. Denial. Large corporations like the idea of blaming consumers for this crisis and consumers like to do the same. If action is to take place, it has to come from everyone. No matter how insignificant each of us alone may seem, together we can achieve above and beyond our goals. We all need to take personal responsibility for this because our future generations won’t thank us if we don’t. The clock is ticking, so go green now!”

Johnny Blake

How do you practice sustainability in your own life, at home and in school?

“I think you can practice this at home by doing things as easy as turning off the lights when you don’t need them and also turning off taps or anything you don’t need. You might not think it will make a difference but I know it does.”

Ben Lynch

Where do you see the future of the climate strike movement going?

“We believe that the climate strikes will become even more widespread than they are now. More people will continue to join in with the strikes and advocate for our planet’s wellbeing. As the strikes grow and grow in size, they will have a bigger influence and people will realise that it’s an important problem. We believe that the climate strikes will help to bring everyone together.
– Not just youths involved
– Diversity: people of all ages striking
– Keeps growing and growing
– More political parties
– Planet over convenience.”

Cormac, Andrew, Johnny, and Ben

Finally, Mr Michael Grehan points out the shared commitment of Belvedere and Gonzaga students to Global Climate Action through their participation in Fridays For Future protests every week of term at Dáil Eireann. These climate movement demonstrations have resulted in engaging conversations with Senator Alice Mary Higgins and TD Eamonn Ryan who affirm their struggle for better care of the earth.