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Church plays part in Fiji climate talks

08 July 2016


Flying over: Greenland’s ice sheet is captured from a height of 40,000 ft in a photo by NASA’s Oceans Melting Greenland team, which observes changing water temperatures and glaciers

Flying over: Greenland’s ice sheet is captured from a height of 40,000 ft in a photo by NASA’s Oceans Melting Greenland team, which observes changing ...

AN INTERNATIONAL consultation on climate change organised by the Anglican mission agency the United Society (Us.) has met in Fiji this week. Fiji comprises an archipelago of 300 islands that are already suffering from the impact of rising sea levels.

The Archbishop of Canterbury sent delegates a message, delivered by the Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt Revd Christopher Lowson. Archbishop Welby’s message said: “It is my prayer that this consultation will play a hugely significant role in defining a strategy going forward with climate justice.

“I give thanks to Archbishop Winston Halapua and the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia for hosting this event in Fiji, especially in the wake of the devastation of Cyclone Winston and recent earthquakes.

“Together, you will be exploring and struggling with difficult themes which create many challenges for the Anglican Communion and the world. We need to face them together and find a way forward. Then we will be able to fulfil our purpose.”

Archbishop Halapua said: “The Anglican Communion is no longer a word, it is now seeing and experience.”

Some 676 villages in Fiji are at risk of flooding because of rising sea levels, and several communities have already been forced to relocate. Salt water has ruined farmland, causing economic damage, and ancestral lands have been destroyed.

Cyclone Winston, which hit Fiji in February this year, was one of the strongest tropical storms in history, causing damage equal to ten per cent of Fiji’s GDP, and killing 44.

The seven-day consultation, “Encountering God in the Storm”, has been attended by senior clergy from across Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, Oceania, and Africa.

The charity’s representative at the conference, Rachel Parry, said: “One of the aims of the Us. consultation is to encourage Anglican leaders worldwide to grapple more vigorously with climate change, helping to raise the issue on political agendas and inspiring the Church to help communities in devising local responses.”

GreenFaith convergence in New Orleans A CLIMATE-justice event to train young leaders from different faiths took place last month in New Orleans, where a decade ago Hurricane Katrina caused 1245 deaths.

The event — described as a “convergence” — was organised by GreenFaith, a US interfaith environmental organisation. It works with faiths and faith schools to help religious leaders become better stewards of the environment.

The director of GreenFaith, Stacey Kennealy, said that the 52 leaders — aged between 21 and 35 — attending the convergence came from a variety of faiths, including Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Quaker, and Bah’ai.

The event was open to leaders from across the US and Canada; they spent time with communities in New Orleans which had been devastated by Hurricane Katrina, and also with people in Louisiana’s coastal communities, which were hit a month later by Hurricane Rita. Those who were most affected by the hurricanes were the poorest, and many have still not recovered fully.

Participants listened to the stories of those who had suffered most, and were given training in how best to respond as religious environmental leaders. The week culminated in a lobbying of the local Republican senator, asking him to reflect on his own faith in the light of climate change and the need to protect vulnerable people.

The New Orleans convergence was the second in a worldwide series. The first was organised in Rome during the summer of 2015, and there are others planned in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this year, and in India in 2017.

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