The Archbishop of Canterbury was formally welcomed to Fiji today – and he took the opportunity, before the President and leading members of Fijian society, to make a ringing public declaration about the need for climate action.
The Archbishop, who arrived in Fiji last night to join the three-day Oceania Fono – the annual gathering of the Primates of Australia, Melanesia, Papua New Guinea and Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia – was greeted by the President of Fiji, His Excellency Major-General (Ret’d) Jioji Konrote in a traditional ceremony in Suva this morning.
President Konrote said he was both delighted that climate change is high on the Fono agenda – and that Archbishop Welby himself is “a very strong and influential advocate of the need for the global community to decisively address climate change.
“I applaud your commitment to the health and well-being of our planet. It’s a commitment that we share in Fiji.”
In his response, the Archbishop said he counted it “a particular privilege to be in Fiji – which is playing such an important role in the worldwide campaign to change humanity’s attitude to climate change.
“Because we need to change our attitude to the change, before we can change the climate change.”
The President had also referred to Archbishop Justin’s soon-to-be released book: Reimaging Britain: Foundations for Hope. In his remarks, Archbishop Justin said he’d become aware of an error in his book.
“In it I say that the issues of climate change are our duty to our descendants, to our children and grandchildren. Well, that is true. But when you come to Fiji and listen to the stories of what is happening to the oceans, they are an issue for today as well. As important for today, as for the future. And it is through Fiji’s leadership that this is being brought, more and more consciously, to the awareness of people around the world.
“Here the oceans are rising, in much of Africa the deserts are spreading – in other places climate change is bringing storms on a scale that we have not seen before. It is the greatest challenge we face. And yet not every nation yet believes that it is a problem.
“It is a great challenge for our common good… Because the common good calls us to say that some must give things up in order that others may be able to grow and develop, and flourish. If we do not do that, we cannot call ourselves part of the human family.”
The Fono members went on from the State welcome to another cultural welcome in the grounds of Holy Trinity Cathedral.
In the afternoon they met behind closed doors to discuss mission in Oceania, and planning for the 2020 Lambeth Conference before – at the behest of the Primate of Australia, Archbishop Philip Freier – meeting with The Global Foundation, which is also having a “Pacific Islands Roundtable” meeting in Suva.
The Global Foundation, which was formed in Melbourne 20 years ago, is an international network of “people of good will”, many from private enterprise backgrounds, “who agree to cooperate to shape the global common good.” The foundation actively seeks to link with faith groups in trying to overcome challenges such as climate change.
Tomorrow morning’s session of the Fono is shaping as one of its key moments.
The gathering will hear presentations by the Acting Fijian Prime Minister and Minister for the Environment Hon Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum – who will report on last November’s COP 23 summit meeting in Bonn, Germany – and Professor Beth Holland, who is both the Director of the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PaCE-SD), and the University of the South Pacific’s Professor of Climate Change.
Immediately after that session, Archbishop Welby will join the other Archbishops in a highly symbolic event – they will board the vaka Uto Ni Yalo and sail out to a sandbank in Suva Harbour where they will celebrate the Eucharist, with the waters lapping at their feet.
Source: Anglican Taonga