Parishioners from St Mary’s Harborne put questions on major global issues to their local MP

Catholics across the England and Wales are making sure that their voices are heard on major global issues, by organising virtual meetings with their local MPs to discuss tackling issues on climate change, unjust foreign debts, and how we can rebuild after the pandemic. 

Dubbed, ‘Parliament in Your Parish’ – it is a new initiative run by overseas development charity CAFOD.   

Andrea Speranza, Campaigns Engagement Manager at CAFOD, said:   

“By organising an online meeting with their MPs, Catholics can play a vital role in ensuring that politicians put the poorest communities at the heart of these meetings.  

“With over 5.5 million Catholics in the UK, we have a responsibility to use our voices to create a better post-pandemic world. 

“As a result of the pandemic, 150 million people are set to fall into extreme poverty. But with two major international meetings this year – G7 in June and COP26 in November – to be hosted by our Government, gives the UK a unique opportunity to become a force for good.” 

Abigail McMillan from St Mary’s Pariah in Harborne who started a ‘Parliament in Your Parish’ in her local community and met with her local MP on Monday 26 July , says: 

 “The meeting was so full of information and enthusiasm, which is a great motivation to do more”. Abigail adds: “Preet’s enthusiasm is infectious and her knowledge is exceptional.  It challenges all of us to get on with it”

In response to the ‘Parliament in Your Parish’ initiative local MP for Edgbaston, Preet Gill said:      

“One thing that is great about my job is talking to people who are really interested in climate an you are all doing a great job”. Ms Gill added ” People ask me, does it matter if I write to my MP?  Yes it does, don’t assume someone else is writing to their MP about this… it is so important to contact your MP, we want to hear that you care.”

Inspired by the words of Pope Francis in his second encyclical Laudato Si: “Unless citizens control political power – national, regional and municipal – it will not be possible to control damage to the environment…”  

Parishioners across England and Wales are heeding the call of Pope Francis and rallying to come to together to push their MPs to respond to pressing global issues of the day.  

<< Have you organised a meeting yet? If so register here

<< Click here to get involved in our petition to the Prime Minister

Oxford parishioners meet up with local MP Anneliese Dodds as part of Parliament in your Parish

Nine representatives of the parishes of Greyfriars, and St Mary and St John, Cowley Road – Oxford met with their MP Anneliese Dodds, on 9 July to discuss the impact of climate change and COP26 as part of CAFOD’s campaign Parliament in your Parish.  Michael Malone-Lee, CAFOD parish volunteer at Greyfriars, reports:

Greyfriars, Iffley Road, Oxford

“Anneliese Dodds said that she was optimistic about Parliament’s engagement with the question of climate change and COP26.  There had been a change in the tone of Government rhetoric on the emergency, but this needed to be matched by changes in policy and investment priorities to encourage and support action to reduce damage to the environment for instance by prioritizing public transport over road building.

 The issues go beyond party politics; political leaders must work together. COP26 should not be criticised because it was being led in the UK by a conservative government. She had been working with Ed Miliband to get the tone of debate right and to remove blockages to cooperation. Practical action was needed now and should be taken before COP26. But public support was important and local initiatives like Low Traffic Neighbourhoods were often controversial.  There should be no conflict between jobs and action to green the environment; there was room for both.

St Mary and St John, Cowley Road, Oxford

In the course of the meeting Claire Brewes, curate of St Mary and St John, read out passages from letters which pupils from year 6 at St Frideswide Primary School had written to our political leaders expressing their anxieties about climate change and she asked what message she could take back to the children.  Anneliese replied that responsibility for tackling climate change must not be shuffled off onto young people. The message to take back to the children was that they had done well but should not feel it was their responsibility but that of their parents’ generation to face up to the challenge of climate change and to resolve the problems. They should keep pressing adults on climate change and hold them to account.

MP Anneliese Dodds said that she did not support reduction of the Aid budget which she believed would be counterproductive.  She felt it should not be used to support heavily carbon producing industries but rather less carbon intensive infrastructure. On the question of debt relief there was international agreement on public debt, but the problem was relief on private debt i.e. debt to non-governmental institutions. Holders of private debt needed to be bound into an agreement.

In response to a question about the private members’ Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill introduced by Caroline Lucas MP which is currently before parliament Ms Dodds said that the principles behind the bill were to be supported but the bill did not change policy.  It is more important to take action now and that could be more easily achieved by amending bills that were currently going through Parliament.

Finally, when asked what she would like us to do, Ms Dodds replied that it was good to see faith communities coming together on these matters.  Local action was needed, and we could give our support to such action, for example, by writing to councillors, newspapers, etc and supporting local initiatives like Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and pushing back against the views of those who don’t like change.”

Thank you to all who organised and attended the meeting and to Anneliese Dodds MP for attending her time.  Pope Francis has called the race to halt the climate crisis “the greatest leadership opportunity of all”.  We pray that our leaders take up this opportunity.

>>  Please sign our petition to the PM to put people hardest hit at the heart of COP26 climate talks

Schools out!

Schools may be out for summer! Here @CAFOD in the Diocese of Birmingham we are looking for #volunteers to journey with us and our amazing students.

Working alongside teachers, priests, and catechists, with all the training and resources you will need, you will relish the time you spend discussing issues of global justice with children and young people. 

Could you help to inspire and empower children and young people in our Catholic schools to act on their sense of justice?  Are you keen to help young people to prepare to receive the sacrament of confirmation?

Is that you? Or maybe someone you know?