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Reflection by Rev’d Gerald Billings of the Anglican Church of Polynesia

Mon 26, Sep 2016

The Rev'd Gerald Billings gave the following reflection to a meeting of the Anglican Alliance Pacific Regional Advisory Council, which met in Fiji last week. As a member of the Council, ABM representatives also attended the meeting, which had a particular focus on Climate Change. The issue of Climate Justice is increasingly becoming a key priority for the Anglican Alliance in the Pacific Region, where the impacts of rising sea-levels are becoming acute.

 

Climate Change – In mitigation through love and prayer.

On Sat, 11th June this year, a delegation of government officials including children from the Pacific islands of Kiribati arrived at Savusavu, Vanualevu.

The delegation was led by the Vice President of Kiribati, and they were here for their initial glimpse of the land that they had purchased from the Anglican Church in Fiji to be used for the resettlement of their people, because their islands were sinking and slowly disappearing due to rising sea levels.

“If we are talking about our island States submerging in ten years time, we simply have to find somewhere else to go” - President of Kiribati, Anote Tong, at the Pacific islands Forum, October 2006

This was to be a new chapter in the lives of the people of this country in their endeavor to adapt to their new home and environment.


On the 20th and 21st February, Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Winston cut a path of destruction across Fiji.

The biggest and most powerful cyclone yet to hit our shores and even for the South Pacific region.

Out of the estimated population of 670,000, approximately 350,000 people were affected, leaving a death toll of around 45.

The Fiji Government estimates that the number of houses damaged by the cyclone was 32,000, with an estimated 150,000 people in need of shelter assistance. (OCHA, 23 Mar 2016)

The cyclone damaged at least 495 schools, 88 health facilities, disrupted basic public services and destroyed crops and livelihoods.

We will be visiting an Anglican settlement tomorrow to witness this disaster.

According to the post-disaster needs assessment jointly prepared by the government and development partners, total damage and losses from Cyclone Winston are estimated at $1.42 billion — equivalent to 31% of gross domestic product.

The people of Kiribati, Fiji and the Pacific are asking the question WHY God? Why us? Why are you punishing us?

But they are now slowly realizing that most of the warming of the planet that has occurred over the last 50 years is caused by human activity rather than natural phenomena, although they are not to be blamed directly.


What does this statement say to our Church, our aid agency and our government?

Are you in a position to do anything about it? If so, what?

What we believe throughout the Bible from the Genesis creation story onward, we learn about God’s love for the earth and all its creatures including humanity.

The Biblical understanding of the wholeness and inter-relatedness of all creation has some similarities to the traditional Pacific teachings about the land known as Vanua/ Fonua/Whenua/Enua and the ocean referred to as Moana.

The implications of this vision include the need for us humans to live with respect and humility within God’s creation.

Responding to God’s love for creation, we are called to care for the earth and limit destructive activities such as those that contribute to climate change.


The World Council of Churches put out a statement in 2006 saying:

“We believe that caring for the earth is a spiritual commitment.

People and other species have the right to life unthreatened by human greed and destructiveness. Listen to the scientists and the cry of the earth and address the reality of climate change with the extreme urgency that it demands.

We believe that the whole earth community deserves to benefit from the bounties of creation. Faith communities are addressing climate change because it is a spiritual and ethical issue of justice, equity, solidarity sufficiency and sustainability” (World Council of Churches, November 2006)

 

People living in tents after Tropical Cyclone Winston hit Fiji in March 2016.
People living in tents after Tropical Cyclone Winston hit Fiji in March 2016.

 

Prayers of the Pacific

Bernard Narakobi, Papua New Guinea

“Our Pacific islands are Yours O Lord,
And all the seas that surround them
You made the palms trees grow
And the birds that fly in the air
When we see your beautiful rising sun
And hear the waves splash on our shores
When we see the new moon rise
We know o Lord how wonderful you are
Watch over our people with justice
Teach us with righteousness
Speak to us daily
Strengthen us to serve you.”

 

Dr Amanaki Havea, Tonga

“O God, save our shores from the weapons of death,
Our lands from the things that deny our young ones love and freedom.
Let the seas of the Pacific ocean carry messages of peace and goodwill.
Let each child swim and breathe the fresh air that is filled by the Spirit.” 

 

A prayer that we recite locally each Sunday in our Anglican Churches
throughout our Diocese of Polynesia.

COLLECT for our Nation:                                                                                               

Embracing God, our Creator and source of all Wisdom, we thank You for Your gift of Fiji to Oceania and to the world. We thank you for her people of diverse gifts and cultures, and for the richness of her shores, mountains and valleys. We pray for Your wisdom to enable the people of Fiji to reflect the love of God, love  our neighbour, and to respect your creation. We pray in the name of our Living God, Creator Redeemer and Life Giver.

Amen.

 

(Top image: Window at St Christopher's Anglican Church, Nadi, Fiji. © Julianne Stewart/ABM 2016)

 


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