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Fasting for climate justice

Phipps’s action is a prayer for courage

By Carolyn Pogue

He is known for his commitment to justice — for First Nations, women, children and people of various sexual orientations — to interfaith co-operation and to eco-justice. He’s made news in Canada and abroad, speaking about these and other issues.

On Nov. 27, the first Sunday of Advent, Very Rev. Bill Phipps will be home in Calgary, beginning what he calls a Fast for Courage. The former United Church moderator (and my life partner) will not eat for the duration of the United Nations Climate Change meetings in Durban, South Africa. Tibetan Buddhist leader Lynn Chazotsang and Rev. Sheena Trotter-Dennis will bless the fast at Hillhurst United. Then it will begin.

Fasting is part of many ancient spiritual traditions, used to clear mind and body in order to focus on the spirit. The purpose of Bill’s fast is to call attention to the importance of the Durban meetings and to invite others to take action.

“Climate change is a spiritual issue,” he says. “Fasting is my prayer that our leaders will be courageous in their decisions. We need them to know that we are watching and hoping that they will take bold action.”

United Church moderator Mardi Tindal is attending the Durban meetings and will stay in touch with Bill about what is happening there.

In Calgary, Bill will stand vigils outside the offices of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Alberta Premier Alison Redford, Mayor Naheed Nenshi, the Alberta Government and MLA Dr. David Swann. Bill will invite passersby into conversations about the seriousness of the issue. He’s doing this, he says, for his and everyone’s grandchildren. It’s not necessarily a popular thing to do, considering that many passersby are directly connected to the energy industry.

Bill fasted during the global meetings held in Copenhagen, Denmark, two years ago. “The world was not very impressed with Canada’s leadership at those meetings,” he recalls. “We can do better.”

Calgary’s temperatures hit record lows during that 2009 fast, but Bill says he was warmed by the response of the media and of “fellow travellers” in the quest for climate justice. From the Maritimes to the Northwest Territories to British Columbia, people responded to his invitation to send messages to our leaders, to hold community meetings, to fast for a day or more and to think of other creative acts of solidarity with Earth.

The Earth Charter states, “As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward, we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms, we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny.”

Bill’s commitments have always been about celebrating diversity within our common Earth community. The fast underlines this commitment.

Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a longtime Observer contributor. New posts of The Pogue Blog will appear on the first and third Thursday of the month. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
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