Young Leaders and Creation Care in the Oceania Region

Oceania Creation Care Consultation [Photo: Jen Schabel]

Around the world Christians are rediscovering the importance of caring for creation. Young leaders from Aotearoa New Zealand joined with others from around Oceania to encourage and support each other in their respective creation care and climate change initiatives. Held at Tahlee, an A Rocha Australia centre in Port Stephens, New South Wales, the week-long Lausanne-WEA Oceania Creation Care Consultation involved delegates from Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu.

Aso Loapo [Photo: Jen Schabel]

Delegates heard powerful and unforgettable stories of those involved in creation care advocacy and practical conservation projects. On the opening day, Aso Loapo – a pastor and a representative for Tuvalu Climate Action Network (TUCAN) spoke of how climate change is bringing profound physical challenges to those in the islands of Tuvalu. Rising sea levels, storm surges, king tides and coral bleaching are impacting daily life. Locals need to go further to sea to fish, the salinity of soil is impacting crop growth, and storm surges are destroying crops, trees and structures. But beyond the physical challenges, climate change is also bringing profound social, cultural and theological challenges. Aso explained that the Tuvaluan culture has 4 main pillars:

PEOPLE + LAND + OCEAN + GOD = LIFE

Remove any of these pillars and their self-identity will be washed away. Aso reminded listeners that our actions today impact on the future lives of communities:

“Life is a gift from God. Our future depends on our action today. We are impacted – physically, culturally, spiritually – but need more than just prayer. We need mature cooperation with Western Christian churches as our islands, lives and lives of our children are at stake. We pray that our submersion will never become a reality.”

NZ delegates from left to right: Andrew Shepherd [A Rocha], Elise Ranck [Anglican Diocese of Wellington], Alex Johnston [Church Climate Change Network / 350.org], Amy Harrison [Tertiary Student Christian Fellowship], Candace Weir [Tamaki Waste Reduction Action Program], Jen Allaway [Tertiary Student Christian Fellowship], Hinemoa Carpenter [Anglican Diocese of Auckland] [Photo: Jen Schabel]

Such sobering reminders of the realities many currently face stood alongside inspiring stories of faithful action. A Rocha Aotearoa New Zealand co-director, Andrew Shepherd, who was part of the organising committee for the consultation said, “I was encouraged by the depth of passion, the wisdom and perseverance of so many. I was also particularly heartened by the composition of delegates from Aotearoa New Zealand. The diversity – Maori, Pakeha, Protestant, Catholic, church-based and flax-roots organisations – and youthful energy, bodes well for the New Zealand church as it seeks to integrate creation care into its life and mission into the future.”

Candace Weir from Tamaki Waste Reduction Action Program (WRAP), pictured here with fellow delegate Hinemoa Carpenter, in her personal blog offers a striking record of her reflections and learnings from the week. Fellow NZ delegate, Jen Allaway, from Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship (TSCF) also put her learning from the consultation into immediate action. Read her story here.

To view a slideshow of the Oceania consultation, click here. If you’d like to contribute to A Rocha’s ongoing work fostering the development of Christian environmental leaders and encouraging and supporting creation-care initiatives in the Oceania region, click to donate.
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