In AD 1212 , two Catholic European boys led the Children’s Crusade through Italy towards Jerusalem to peacefully convert Muslims in Christendom’s Holy City.
The more than 50,000 children and adults who followed were recruited after fiery sermons by 12-year-old Stephen of Cloyes in France and 13-year-old Nicolas of Cologne in Germany.
The pilgrimage was ill-fated. The Pope urged them to go home. Two-thirds of the crusaders died. The Mediterranean Sea on the coast of Italy did not part for them to pass through as they expected it to.
Unscrupulous merchants offered them passage to the Holy Land.
Some died in a shipwreck. The rest were taken to Tunisia and sold into slavery.
Nicolas’s father was hanged by other parents angered by the deaths and disappearances of their children.
One hundred years later, another 13-year-old French child, Jean d’Arc, from Domrémy, achieved fame as a self-appointed warrior for France during the One Hundred Years War. She was burned at the stake for her beliefs after a six-year crusade.
For two years, Greta Thunberg has led a children’s crusade against climate change with a simple message: “listen to the scientists.”
The scientists she listens to say climate change is a life-ending threat.
Like Nicolas, Stephen and Jean d’Arc, Greta has recruited an adult following.
Thunberg’s crusade started during the 2018 Swedish national election, which coincided with massive forest fires that were blamed on the changing climate.
She studied climate change science with the focus and intensity unique to children with Asperger's syndrome, the form of autism she suffers. She decided to get involved as a campaigner for the cause, encouraged by her parents. Her father is an actor and her mother is an opera singer.
Unlike Nicolas and Stephen and Jean d’Arc, Greta has enjoyed success.
On the first day of her protest – a sit-in outside the Swedish parliament – she was alone.
But she staged a weekly Friday non-violent protest with other students.
Taking the climate change cause to the street has spread through Europe and North America.
There was an Extinction Rebellion traffic stopping protest in Calgary Oct. 7 that resembled the Thunberg demonstrations in Stockholm.
Greta has become an international figure and has been invited to meet with the high and mighty in such venues as the United Nations, the economic forum at Davos, and with political leaders including European heads of state, U.S. presidential candidates, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
She has given a TED talk in Stockholm.
She won the US$103,000 Right Living Foundation Prize, described as an alternative to a Nobel Prize, for which she was nominated and passed over.
When she came to Alberta in October, oil magnates and big-city mayors sought an audience with her.
Meeting Greta has gained more political currency in Europe and North America than a papal audience.
Greta Thunberg is an un-self-conscious, but self-righteous and unconventional child.
She doesn’t pretend to be something she is not. She is just a megaphone for a message.
– Frank Dabbs is a veteran business and political journalist and author.