They also learned about the ecumenical movement: its history, its present, and where it’s going. WCC representatives shared messages of solidarity and encouragement, and young people also participated in a variety of workshops, with topics ranging from climate change to stopping gender-based violence, from grassroots advocacy to global campaigns.
The event was co-organized by the Pacific Conference of Churches and the WCC, stemming from the Pacific Conference of Churches identifying concerns among young people in the region: climate justice, mental health, unemployment, and gender-based violence.
The hybrid gathering was open to Pacific and indigenous youth, with a special emphasis on affirming and drawing from the wisdom of indigenous cultures and spirituality in addressing these challenges.
The youth also aimed to encourage and strengthen their links with the WCC, which included planning for a youth pre-assembly before the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany in 2022.
More than 50 young people participated, coming from Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu. Youth from each island-nation gathered in person, and joined online with representatives from the WCC. WCC programmes for Youth Engagement, Just Community of Women and Men, and Mission from the Margins each helped lead different facets of the gathering.
In welcoming remarks, Olivia Baro, ecumenical youth enabler at the Pacific Conference of Churches, encouraged the intergenerational mentoring taking place during the event.
“We are just grateful for the opportunity, that the WCC is thinking of the Pacific and the future of the Pacific, and for us to come together in solidarity,” said Baro.
WCC deputy general secretary Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri shared how youth are a vital part of the ongoing Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace.
“The Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace was launched in 2013 at the WCC 10th Assembly which was held in Busan, South Korea, and at that meeting, we agreed that we would invite all member churches, other churches, other faiths, and people of good will to join together on a Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace—and it was agreed that this pilgrimage would celebrate the gifts that God has given us,” said Phiri. “We hear your plea for accompaniment and intervention, and we also look forward to participating with you in this ecumenical continuing formation process.”
Rev. Dr Odair Pedroso Mateus, WCC interim deputy general secretary, said that it was a great privilege for the WCC to be in communication with youth from the Pacific.
"I would like specifically to add that the ecumenical movement was born with young people and perhaps the ecumenical movement will be renewed by young people—by your presence, by your participation, by your engagement,” said Mateus.
Rev. Mari Valjakka, pastor of Sámi at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and moderator of the WCC Indigenous Peoples Reference Group, offered a Sámi blessing to the group.
“We already know that the Arctic area is warming way more quickly than any other region in this world, and of the impact of the climate issues, of climate change, not only here in the Arctic but in the Pacific,” she said. “I recently came back from the COP26 meeting so I’m all about climate change right now, and this is something in common for people in the Arctic and the people in the Pacific.”
Joy Eva Bohol, programme executive for WCC Youth Engagement, said that the entire event was a sharing of intersectionality.
“We are increasingly trying to engage the youth in every aspect of the WCC,” she said, “and that engagement is a collaboration with different parts of the fellowship.”