Christians across Australia are being asked to join in praying for Pacific Islanders whose nations are being adversely affected by climate change.

Pray for Our Pacific is an initiative of the Pacific Island-based group 350 Pacific, a youth-led organisation which, as part of the global 350.org group, aims to highlight the vulnerabilities of island nations to climate change.

Pray for our Pacific

“While the fight against climate change takes many forms around the world, praying together as a region and community concerned about the devastating impacts of climate change across the Pacific is also a powerful way we can unite to combat the climate crisis.”

- Koreti Tiumalu, organiser of Pray for Our Pacific

In a statement issued this month, Koreti Tiumalu, organiser of Pray for Our Pacific, spoke of the power of prayer.

“While the fight against climate change takes many forms around the world, praying together as a region and community concerned about the devastating impacts of climate change across the Pacific is also a powerful way we can unite to combat the climate crisis.”

A report into migration of select Pacific Island communities released at the UN Climate Change Summit in Paris last December found that, between 2005-2015, significant numbers of people had left island nations such as Tuvalu, Nauru and Kiribati due to the impacts of climate change and that while others looked to leave the country, financial constraints meant they were “trapped” in worsening environmental conditions.

Dr Koko Warner, the report’s author and head of the Environmental Migration, Social Vulnerability & Adaptation Section at the United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security, said climate change posed an “existential threat for so many people in the Pacific, who are right in the front line and there’s not much more stress that they can take”.

Pray for Our Pacific, which is being held for the first time and which may be run annually, runs from 2nd to 11th September with a specific focus for prayer to be held over the weekend of the 10th and 11th September.

While some churches will simply spend some time praying during a service, some are integrating the concept more fully with sermons and music around the theme.

Churches across numerous Pacific Island nations are taking part as well as others as far afield as China, the US, Canada and New Zealand.

In Australia, the event is being championed by the multi-faith Australian Religious Response to Climate Change. Thea Ormerod, chairperson of the ARRCC, says there are already communities in the Pacific which have been forced to leave their homes because of rising sea levels while others are facing trouble growing crops and finding fresh water.

“These islands are becoming unliveable because of climate change,” she says, noting that some islanders were “terrified” by the changes. “And there’s not a lot of awareness about it in Christian communities – we sort of tend to see environmental issues as out there for other people to deal with.”

Ms Ormerod says that as well as encouraging people to pray, the campaign is also aimed at addressing this lack of awareness. “I think a lot of Christians, do, sort of in the back of their mind know it’s a Christian responsibility…but it’s kind of bringing it further to the surface.”

At least 15 different churches, predominantly from the Uniting Church and Catholic Churches, are taking part in the event in Australia. Strathfield Uniting Church in Sydney is among them.

Rev Alimoni Taumoepeau, the church’s minister, said that it was an “injustice” that people living in Pacific Island villages were “suffering from the results of the decisions and lifestyles of others in lands far away.”

“More than that, when the sea has swamped their land, there is no high ground to which they can flee,” he said. “This is terrifying.”

“People of faith have a long history of praying for, and standing in solidarity with, people on the receiving end of injustice. Pray For Our Pacific has really struck a chord with us.”

~ http://350pacific.org/prayforourpacific/