The Whole Earth is My True Body: Buddhists March in Rome for Climate Justice
Thousands of faith-based and environmental activists descended on St. Peter’s Square last Sunday in Rome, showing strength in diversity in the wake of the Pope’s encyclical on climate change.
Pope Francis welcomed the Una Terra, Una Famiglia (One Earth, One Family) marchers during his Sunday blessing. He praised interfaith solidarity as an essential ingredient for humanity to face our contributions to climate disasters.
Buddhists carried the hand-painted banner, “The Whole Earth is My True Body. I Vow to Work for Climate Justice.” Made by BPFers in Richmond, California originally for a May visit to the White House, BPF Co-Director Dawn Haney carried it to Rome to be part of the Interfaith Emerging Leaders Convergence on Climate Change.
Buddhists from Burma, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and South Korea were also in attendance at the convergence and helped carry the banner. BPFers from Chicago and the Bay Area were also in Rome for a separate US Buddhist-Catholic dialogue, which included a meeting with Pope Francis. BPFers Mushim Patricia Ikeda and Hozan Alan Senauke are pictured below in their meeting with Pope Francis.
With good messaging that hits a timely news cycle, symbolic actions like this march can raise awareness beyond the usual activist suspects. The crowd favorite flying birds (symbols of both the natural world we are trying to protect and the Pope’s namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi) will likely be mainstays in climate protests this fall, as actions intensify in preparation for the Paris Climate Talks in December.
The Pope’s encyclical aims to bring Catholic and other faith communities more deeply into the conversation on climate change. His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama has praised the encyclical, Laudato Si, and Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi has offered a Buddhist framing of the Pope’s message. With widespread news coverage of the march (The Guardian, New York Times, Washington Post) and young faith leaders taking the experience back to their communities from around the global, it’s time for people of all faiths to step into our leadership on climate change.