On an alarmingly milder-than-normal January day this year, about 100 religious leaders representing Jewish, Christian, Catholic, Islamic, Native American, Buddhist traditions gathered in the historic New York Avenue Presbyterian Church before processing in a silent march two blocks to the north side of the White House for a “pray-in for the climate.” They were led by NASA scientist James Hansen, a leading climatologist on global warming who was carrying a small inflated globe, and a group of Buddhist drummers. They had just been commissioned by Common Cause CEO Bob Edgar, a former Congressman and Secretary General of the National Council of Churches.
Rev. Edgar spoke about his own conversion in that very church years ago as he listened to Dr. Martin Luther King just weeks before King was assassinated. Dr. King preached that “history will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” Edgar said his life changed upon hearing King’s words that day. This month, on the 84th anniversary of Dr. King’s birthday, Rev. Edgar reminded those in the pews that they are the leaders that they have been waiting for.
When the participants in the pray-in arrived in front of the White House, they called on President Obama to act aggressively to combat climate change. The concerns they voiced ranged from fears of more extreme weather like Superstorm Sandy, to mountain top removal, to stopping the Keystone XL Pipeline. They demanded a cap on carbon emissions with appropriate steps taken to ensure that working families and the poor are protected from rising prices. They called for an end to subsidies to the coal, oil and gas industries.
Rabbi David Swartz blew the shofar and Rabbi Arthur Waskow sang a lamentation. A dozen people had committed to risk arrest, but in the end no arrests for civil disobedience occurred. Here are some of my photos from the event:
Rick Reinhard is a freelance photographer based in Washington, D.C. For contact information, visit his website.