Last November, Lya Vollering, a member of the community at Minsteracres for ten years up to 2013, joined a group of pilgrims on a walk of 200 miles from London to Paris, ending at the Paris climate change conference, to raise awareness of environmental issues. Here she shares some reflections on her journey:

I wanted to share with you a day from the highlight of my year in 2015. I was walking with a group of ordinary, and therefore somehow extraordinary, people from London to Paris to raise awareness for climate justice. It was treading lightly on the earth, giving the belly of mother Earth a massage, as a Yanomami leader from Brazil once told me. It was walking with people from different walks of life but with the same sense of wanting to do something for a better, fairer and more beautiful earth:

Lya Nov 15 x 1 resized

Heavy rain showers, hailstones, strong wind and 5 degrees Celsius was this morning’s weather forecast. So far it has been wet, but mild. I have seen flowering roses, fuchsias and dahlias on route to Paris. This at the end of November – it doesn’t feel right. But today it was going to be cold and wet.

I decided to wear the thermal trousers I inherited from my mum, and the nice lined walking trousers I got from a friend, who died a month ago. I put the waterproof trousers my Chinese friend let me borrow in my day rucksack, just in case I needed them. I put on a fleece from Aldi, a woolen vest from a fair trade stall and the warm lined raincoat borrowed from a Syrian friend. A lovely elderly Kosovan couple who share a house with me had given me a nice green fleece scarf. Another Syrian friend had given me a near-fluorescent green hat. I was ready for the 18 kilometers to Forges Les Eaux in the cold and rain.

While we were walking in the heavy rain, a sharp and cold wind was blowing. I thought of other people on the move in this weather. The refugees from the Middle East, Iran and Afghanistan. People without Gore-Tex walking boots, waterproofs and enough warm clothing for the cold winter in Europe. People who don’t know if there will be a warm place for the night, even if it was a church hall floor. They don’t know if they will be greeted with friendliness and kindness. They don’t know if they will be allowed to stay and build up their lives in a safe place. They don’t have a home to go back to, as we have.

The media and politicians talk about a migrant crisis in Europe, but if we don’t act quickly on Climate Justice, more and more people will have to leave their home and country in search of safety and a livelihood.

Today I walked in solidarity with the people fleeing their homes and nations. I only got a tiny glimpse of what it must be like. I sometimes think we are quite a tough bunch of people, coping with these weather conditions and sleeping on the floor with a group of more than 30 people in sometimes cramped spaces. However the knowledge that we can always go home to a warm place and people we love makes all the difference.

This Pilgrimage2Paris has made me think even more deeply about how we welcome the stranger; the ones who had to leave everything. They are part of our world family. May we learn to treat them like brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, parents and grandchildren; taking the risk to share what we have. It will make our family life so much richer and our world more beautiful.

In a similar way, the warmth and kindness of the people from Dieppe and Forges Les Eaux in offering their homes and beds has made this pilgrimage a richer and warmer experience, and coloured our world more beautifully.”

Lya Nov 15 foot massage - resized

Below are links to a news article and short film if you would like to see more:

A short film with highlights from the pilgrimage: