The news was surprising. We knew a group of students had enthusiastically agreed to bring a divestment message to the streets of Malmö and Lund, as Pope Francis visited both Swedish cities in a trip highlighted by a joint prayer celebration with the Lutheran church, marking the beginning of a jubilee commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

Photo: Agota Csoma

Photo: Agota Csoma

 

The surprise was that they managed to deliver the call to divest the Vatican in the hands of the Pope himself.

– Is it a love letter? – Pope Francis asked to the woman who delivered it.

– It’s a letter on behalf of the students of Lund – she replied.

“She is a lovely lady, and she agrees completely with our mission,” explained Agota, who has been a part of the Divest Lund University group since she moved to Sweden from Romania  a couple of years ago. Her landlady, a massage therapist and nutritionist who would provide health advice to Pope Francis during his visit, didn’t think twice when Agota asked her to hand the Pope a letter.

Even before the joint message of the Catholic-Lutheran commemoration was published on October 31st., the Swedish Fossil Free volunteers were ready to heed its call “to be bold and creative, joyful and hopeful in their commitment to continue the great journey ahead of us.”

They published an article in the region’s largest newspaper the previous weekend, and cheerfully carried banners, distributed bright orange flyers with the Fossil Free logo, and talked people into signing the #DivestTheVatican petition outside of each of the locations where events with Pope Francis were held. At one point, as the Pope was walking by the 15th Century cathedral, the group shouted chants about divestment to catch his attention, but were promptly approached and dissuaded by the police.  

“Please join us in our peaceful journey of dethroning the fossil fuel industry that has promoted profit over people for longer than we care to admit. Choose not to invest in an industry that has seen it more profitable to supply climate deniers with extraordinary wealth instead of educating the public the public about the risks of pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Stand beside the many churches and faith-based communities that have divested as a result of the release of your encyclical,” read the love letter from Lund students to Pope Francis.

Last year, the second since the Divest Lund University group was formed, these volunteers  achieved seeing their University divest all its direct holdings from fossil fuel companies. They continue pushing for a full divestment commitment, and I can tell by their persistence, organization and engagement, they will get it.

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