Thanks for coming to look at my blog, as you’ll see from my other posts I don’t normally write much personal stuff on here, but I have on this occasion, mainly to share the following which was put on my facebook wall yesterday:
On Thursday (3rd Sept 2020) I was involved in a demonstration highlighting the climate emergency. Although it was not my intention, that afternoon, I was arrested and charged with ‘wilful obstruction of a highway’. I know that this might cause upset and concern for some of the people who know me, so I thought a word of explanation would be in order. That morning I had felt especially challenged by Rev Rowan Williams who was urging Christians to make a stand for climate justice. A group associated with Extinction Rebellion (XR) had planned a ‘critical mass’ demonstration of cyclists riding through London between 3-5pm, joining other demonstrators at Parliament Square at the end. I know not everyone will agree with me about the best way to campaign against injustice, but I hold the view that non-violent public demonstration is a legitimate form of protest in certain circumstances.
Firstly, I want to say that I didn’t get myself into this unwittingly, naively or without first exploring other ways of expressing my opinions. For some time, I have felt a growing conviction that my Christian discipleship involves a witness that ‘speaks truth to power’, a tradition that is found throughout scripture. That conviction says that as people of faith, those of us who are able, must speak about issues of justice and peace, such as the climate crisis and Black Lives Matter. I believe that care for God’s earth is inextricably linked to justice for all people. These issues are not just about the future, but are affecting people, especially some of the world’s poorest, now. A public protest is for me an outworking of what it means to love God and love my neighbour as myself; as I believe Jesus did and calls his disciples to do.
Unlike some protestors, who pre-plan being arrested at such events, I wasn’t seeking this. Had it been made clear to me that if I didn’t move on I would be arrested I would have peacefully done so, but the nature of the mass arrests on this occasion —the entire group of around 200 demonstrators— meant that I didn’t have that option. However, I fully accept that involvement in this type of event always has the potential for such outcomes.
That’s my main point perhaps. I want to acknowledge that demonstrating in this way was a deliberate, prayerfully considered action, not one that I took lightly. Quite the opposite In fact —I am not in my comfort zone as a protestor! Deciding to engage in peaceful non-violent protest has been, without doubt, one of the most challenging and difficult decisions I’ve ever faced as a Christian. Watching the cell door of the custody suite of the police station clang shut on me, in the middle of the night, was a powerful reminder that following Christ is a serious challenge. In that moment I remembered the great company of the faithful who have gone before me as Christ’s disciples. I knew that all was well with my soul. I felt I was where God wanted me to be.
Rev Mark Pengelly
5th Sept 2020.
Nb. I am sincerely grateful for the personal support of Christian Climate Action I received in this matter. If you’d like to know more about how Christians can respond to these issues see: christianclimateaction.org