Over 200 Christians from all around Australia, representatives of Pacific communities and members of Parliament gathered in front of Australian Parliament House this morning calling on Australia to be a better neighbour to our Pacific brothers and sisters. The gathering was part of Micah Australia’s Voices for Justice event.
Speakers from Fiji, Tonga and Kiribati shared their experiences of climate change, and the effect it is having on their lives and communities. They called on politicians to make a greater commitment to climate change action and aid focussed on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) for developing nations in our region. Prayers were said for our churches, our nation, our nation’s leaders and our world.
Rev James Bhagwan, a leader from the Methodist Church of Fiji, greeted the crowd with a traditional greeting – “Bula!” – as a reminder of the importance of place and relationships. He called on the Australian government to love and care for all people, including our Pacific neighbours.
“To love and care for only a few is not to love at all,” he said.
Tinaai Teaua and Vasiti Tebemare from Kiribati spoke of their love for their land and culture, and their worry about what the next big king tide will mean for their people. They shared how climate change and the corresponding sea level rise is causing increasing severity of these events, and the flooding of homes and hospitals in their homeland. They spoke of their fear, watching their people run around frantically looking for somewhere safe to go.
“But there is nowhere to run in Kiribati” Tinaai said. “This is not about policy for us, it is about survival”.
Joseph-Zane Sikulu from Tonga spoke about the grief he feels when seeing country acknowledged in Australia and knowing that climate change puts his own people at risk of experiencing severe loss of land and culture, and all the pain that comes with that, as indigenous Australians have suffered.
Micah Australia is a coalition of churches and Christian organisations raising a powerful voice for justice and a world free from poverty.