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Faith communities heed climate change call from the Pacific

Churches are invited to join in prayer for Pacific Island communities affected by climate change

August 24 2016A diverse range of Australian faith communities is responding to a call from some Pacific Islanders for a “Pray for Our Pacific Sabbath” in September.

Koreti Magaega Tiumalu is a spokesperson for the group and is based in Fiji. She said, “While the fight against climate change takes many forms around the world, praying together as a region and community concerned about the devastating impacts of climate change across the Pacific is also a powerful way we can unite to combat the climate crisis.” 

Faith communities, mainly Christian, are mobilising in a compassionate response to the impacts of record-breaking cyclones and to sea level rise, which is already forcing the evacuation of thousands from atolls to Australia’s north.

“People in villages scattered across the Pacific and other low-lying lands are suffering from the results of the decisions and lifestyles of others in lands far away,” said the Revd Alimoni Taumoepeau, Uniting Church Minister in Strathfield, New South Wales. “This is an injustice. More than that, when the sea has swamped their land, there is no high ground to which they can flee. This is terrifying.

“People of faith have a long history of praying for, and standing in solidarity with, people on the receiving end of injustice. Pray For Our Pacific has really struck a chord with us.”

The Revd Seforosa Carroll is a Uniting Church minister serving with aid agency UnitingWorld, working with churches and communities in the Pacific. A Pacific Island migrant herself, she said that churches have a role to play in combatting climate change and showing compassion for those most affected.

“Pray For Our Pacific will bring the realities of human-caused climate change to the front of congregants’ minds in our churches, where other initiatives have attracted limited interest. We’ve welcomed the opportunity to promote this,” Ms Carroll said.

Small, low-lying island states were among the most insistent at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris that global warming should be limited to the goal of 1.5 degrees C, rather than two degrees C. “1.5 to stay alive” was often repeated, as two degrees will mean the loss of lands, cultures, communities and identities for people currently on low-lying islands.

Faith communities across Australasia are signing up for Pray For Our Pacific, particularly on the weekend of September 10 and 11. The social significance of the event will be multiplied by extensive social media.

To register, or to view locations of communities participating, see 350.org’s map here: http://350pacific.org/prayforourpacific