At a meeting in Auckland, New Zealand from 1-3 August, the Pacific Conference of Churches released texts on climate change and nuclear weapons, and issued calls to action related to human rights and other issues.
In a text, “Pacific Church Leaders Meeting Statement for COP 23 and Beyond,” the church leaders expressed their support of the Pacific through Fiji taking over the presidency of COP 23, the UN climate change conference to be held in Bonn, Germany on 6-17 November.
“We recognize the existing local knowledge and community strengths as an important factor to consider in building a more sustainable and climate resilient Pacific,” the statement reads. “We therefore call for full consultation and due participation of our communities in national climate adaptation planning processes from inception, to fully take into account their potential, and to create a new culture of proactive rather than reactive risk management, improving efficiency, protecting lives and livelihoods, and reducing economic and non-economic losses and damages.”
The conference also issued various calls to action, including a call for self-determination. “We continue to support the Pacific island countries’ call for the United Nations investigation on Indonesia’s human rights abusers in West Papua,” reads the text. “God created us to be free and self-determining and in that regard we further support the call for West Papua’s self-determination.”
The conference also expressed its ongoing support for the people of Kanaky (New Caledonia) in their pursuit of self-determination and the freedom to determine their political future.
A call to action was also issued related to seabed mining. “We support the uncompromising call of the Papua New Guinea churches to ban the mining of the seabed,” reads the call. “Creation is God’s gift to us and we are to be its stewards in our usage and conservations.”
Regarding the Pacific diaspora, the conference called on churches who have congregations in Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific island countries to coordinate their programs and forums whereby these communities are affirmed of their identities. “We further call on our churches to coordinate their programs on identity and faith for the youth in the diaspora,” reads the text.
The conference also encouraged churches to promote the leadership of women and youth. “We also call on churches, states, civil societies and law enforcement agencies to defend and protect the rights of women and children by introducing zero tolerance initiatives at national and organizational levels,” reads the call.
In a statement, “Pacific Church Leaders’ Statement on a Nuclear-Free Pacific,” the conference reflected with sorrow on French nuclear testing in French Polynesia from 1966 to 1996, which caused irreparable damage; and on U.S. nuclear testing in the northern Pacific from 1946 to 1962, leading to untold physical harm, sickness and, displacement.
The conference also noted with sadness the failure of the United Kingdom to act justly towards the soldiers and sailors of its former Pacific colonies who took part in nuclear and hydrogen bomb testing in 1957 and 1958.
“Many of those men and their descendants have been diseased or debilitated due to the effects of testing,” reads the statement. “We firmly believe that God created the world in which we live as a means to sustain mankind – to provide life through water, air food and shelter.”