Anglicans from around the world are gathering in Fiji this week for an international consultation on climate justice. The event, organized by the Anglican mission agency United Society (USPG), is designed to help Anglican leaders “grapple more vigorously” with the challenges of climate change.
“Together, you will be exploring and struggling with difficult themes which create many challenges for the Anglican Communion and the world,” Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said in a message to the consultation’s participants. “We need to face them together and find a way forward. Then we will be able to fulfill our purpose. It is my prayer that this consultation will play a hugely significant role in defining a strategy going forward with climate justice.”
The seven-day consultation, “Encountering God in the Storm,” is being held in Suva, Fiji at the invitation of Archbishop Winston Halapua, Bishop of Polynesia.
The consultation began with opening worship led by young people of the Diocese of Polynesia and a diocesan cultural welcome on behalf of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.
Archbishop Winston invited Anglican leaders to consider the implications of climate change for the church's mission, in a place where they can 'put their feet in the ocean' and see the immediate effects of rising ocean levels.
Some 676 of Fiji’s villages are at risk of flooding because of rising sea levels. And several communities have already been forced to relocate.
“The impact is not just economic – with ocean acidification killing fish stocks and salt water ruining farmland – but cultural because ancestral lands are being destroyed,” the United Society said in a statement.
“The growing intensity and frequency of storms and flooding is predicted to result in increases in drought, affecting land, food and water security. This year alone the nation has contended with Cyclone Winston and numerous earthquakes, making the people of Fiji among the most vulnerable to climate change.
The consultation got underway with a detailed presentation from Professor Elizabeth Holland, Professor of Climate Change at University of the South Pacific. Her sobering message was joined by Anglican perspectives from Archbishop Winston Halapua and Archbishop Philip Richardson, speaking alongside the Regional Director of the Anglican Alliance. "The challenges are enormous," reflected Archbishop Philip this week, "but some of the creative responses are inspiring."
The consultation also looked at the social impact of increasing climate change pressures on families, in a session dealing with violence against women. The session was led by Diocese of Polynesia Ministry Officer, the Rev Sereima Lomaloma, staff from the Diocese of Polynesia's House of Sarah resource centre on family violence and the Dean of Suva, Claude Fong Toy.
The United Society’s global relations director, Rachel Parry, hopes the consultation, which ends today, will encourage Anglican leaders worldwide to grapple more vigorously with climate justice, raise it as an issue on political agendas, and inspire the church to help communities devise local responses.
“The consultation is also an opportunity for [the United Society] to listen to the wider concerns of our global partners," she said, "including an exploration of how we can work together as an Anglican family in our efforts to achieve the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals.”