By Annonciata Byukusenge
On Thursday, May 25, about 80 believers from different traditions blocked the Léopold-Sédar Senghor footbridge (VII e arr, Paris) to demand the immediate abandonment of TotalEnergies deadly oil projects in Uganda and Tanzania.
In the name of their beliefs and faith, two rabbis, two pastors, a Buddhist master and nun, a Jesuit priest, a bishop emeritus, and a Muslim thinker chained themselves together from one guardrail of the Parisian walkway to the other.
With this blockage, these nine leading religious figures wanted to denounce the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project and the new Tilenga oil field – both of which are mainly owned by the French multinational TotalEnergies.
This action took place on the eve of the TotalEnergies Annual General Meeting, which will be held on Friday, May 26 in Paris.
Arriving at about 11:30am on the bridge, the believers blocked pedestrian and bicycle traffic for 1,443 seconds (24 minutes), to symbolise the 1,443 kilometers of the future pipeline.
Nearly seventy believers were also present to be at the side of the nine religious figures.
Some carried a banner depicting a black pipeline. It read in large white letters: “Dans les tuyaux de Total, coule la mort” In Totals pipes, death flows, in reference to French poet Guillaume Apollinaires famous line, “Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine Under the Mirabeau Bridge flows the Seine.
Another banner stated, “Croyant·es, corps et âme contre EACOP” Believers, body and soul against EACOP, to emphasize their physical and spiritual commitment against the TotalEnergies project.
Sitting on the ground, other believers held signs stating that 1 x EACOP = 2 x THE SEINE. Indeed, if built, the EACOP pipeline (1443 km) will be almost twice as long as the Seine river (777 km).
This is the first time in France that religious figures have blocked a public space to denounce the EACOP and Tilenga oil projects.
The nine religious personalities belong to the Buddhist, Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions:
Yeshaya Dalsace, rabbi of the Massorti Dor Vador community (Paris);
Gabriel Hagai, Orthodox rabbi;
Caroline Ingrand-Hoffet, pastor of the Protestant parish of Kolbsheim (Alsace);
Olivier Reigen Wang-Genh, Zen Buddhist master, former president and co-president of the
Buddhist Union of France (2007-12, 2015-18, 2019-21);
Father Marcel Rémon, sj, director of the Center for Social Research and Action (CERAS) and of the Revue Projet ;
Bishop Marc Stenger, Bishop Emeritus, former Bishop of Troyes (1999-2020);
Otto Schaefer, retired pastor of the United Protestant Church of France (EPUdF – 1987-2018);
Kankyo Tannier, Zen Buddhist nun, international speaker and author;
Ousmane Timera, Muslim thinker.
For five of them, this is the second nonviolent illegal action against EACOP. On November 20, Yeshaya Dalsace, Caroline Ingrand-Hoffet, Olivier Reigen Wang-Genh, Marc Stenger and Kankyo Tannier participated in an undeclared demonstration in front of a TotalEnergies station in Paris.
These modes of action aim to emphasize the urgency and call for an awakening of consciousness for justice and the good of all living beings.
If completed, EACOP will be the world’s longest heated pipeline, running 1,443 km from Uganda tothe port of Tanga in Tanzania. Tilenga will be an oil field with 426 wells, 132 of which will be in the Murchison Falls Natural Park in Uganda.
Participants in the May 25 action consider these projects immoral and contrary to their values: TotalEnergies is attacking climate justice, human rights and biodiversity.
CLIMATE JUSTICE – By causing the emission of 379 million tons of CO 2 equivalent, EACOP and Tilenga will exacerbate climate disruption – to which countries like Uganda and Tanzania are among the most vulnerable.
HUMAN RIGHTS – These projects are expropriating over 100,000 people in Uganda and Tanzania. Their compensation has been late, insufficient and inadequate. Local opposition is being suppressed.
BIODIVERSITY – The EACOP pipeline must cross many rich and fragile ecosystems. Tilenga’s operation in the Murchison Falls Nature Park endangers endangered species and is already causing permanent alteration of the park.
With these projects, TotalEnergies is directly contradicting the scientific data of the IPCC and the studies of the International Energy Agency (IEA), according to which zero fossil fuel projects should be developed after 2021.
On May 7, 2023, a collective of 188 scientists and experts, called in Le Monde TotalEnergies shareholders to vote against the firm climate strategy, denouncing the carbon bomb that EACOP represents.
At TotalEnergies Annual General Meeting, shareholders will be asked to vote on the company’s climate change strategy, which still does not call for a halt to the development of new fossil fuel projects.
This event is organized by the interfaith NGO GreenFaith in partnership with Extinction Rebellion Spiritualities (XR Spi), the interfaith arm of Extinction Rebellion.