New Delhi: It was a Sunday with a difference. Early morning, Delhiites were woken up by strong wake-up calls to protect the environment.
Turbo-charged youngsters, dancing to the tune of lilting music in pouring rain, pounded the streets of Connaught Place, in the heart of the city. They were spreading the papal message to save the planet.
It was Rahagiri day. But the dancers were not the elite parading the goodness of physical exercise. These were children from economically weaker sections.
Sporting green and white umbrellas, they were striving to get across Pope Francis’s advice “care for creation – our common home”.
Hailing from the slums of Delhi, the children aged between 7 and 17 years choreographed six songs, which included Bare Necessities from the film Junglebook and Barso Re Megha, Megha, a Bollwood number for the occasion, said Br. Steve Rocha, Director Pratyek and Nine is Mine, an NGO.
They were spreading the message of Pope For Planet. Each of the songs was linked to sustainable development goals (SDG) as well as themes from the pontiff’s climate change encyclical.
The SDGs among other things include ending poverty in all its forms, food security, women’s empowerment and promoting health and wellbeing for all ages.
In an unprecedented move, Pope Francis had last month released an encyclical on environment that warns of serious consequences if the world does not act on climate change.
The green and white brigade held out banners and placards providing effective focus on the themes like “End Poverty” and “Invest in Children”.
Safe Water, Protect Ocean, Stop Climate Change and Protect Earth were some of the other messages on the placards.
Save the planet message was hammered home most gracefully as the young ones rendezvous in the rain pulled a large crowd that later joined them in impromptu dancing.
The children’s enthusiasm was infectious, it not only hit people’s psyche but also got them to join in the endeavor to save mother earth, said Preethi Lal, a housewife and early morning jogger.
“This is very good initiative. Children of today are the rulers of tomorrow so it’s important to involve youngsters in such campaigns,”said Jitin Desai, a lawyer by profession.
Br. Steve, said the Pope for Planet is a wonderful occasion for all to make the link between human rights and earth rights. This p4p call also challenges us to extend our close-door worship to include service in the market square and even in the midst of polluted rivers and exploited mines.
He said the campaign is fundamentally a response to Pope Francis’ letter released on 18 June, calling for urgent action for climate justice.
Despite the rain, a sea of children and volunteers had assembled early morning around 6.30 a.m. in support of the global campaign on climate change and environment justice promoted by Pope Francis.
Beginning at 7 am it went on for one and a half hours attracting a flash crowd. The crowds were as enthusiastic as the youngsters and asked many questions about climate change and the pontiff’s green initiative, says Steve.
Palm impressions were imprinted on a white cloth. There were also other activities like face and nail painting. Green Bands were also distributed during the campaign, organized by NGOs Caritas India, Chetanalaya and Nine is Mine.
More than 500 people signed the petitions addressed to world leaders who would be attending the United Nations Climate Summit in November at Paris.
Fr Frederick D’Souza, Executive Director of Caritas India, said that several such public events have been planned to sensitize people at large.
He said Caritas India is embarking upon a four-year research program besides planning a number of green activities like afforestation and boosting of renewable energy and sustainable agricultural practices.
“We are a growing economy today but there is also a growing disparity. Our aim is to bridge the gap, and we need everyone to join us in this endeavour,” he added,