AN Oceania synod – it should be the next step for the Church, according to Archbishop Peter Loy Chong of Suva.
“The Amazon and its forests are important, but we must not forget how significant the ocean is in the web of life,” Archbishop Loy Chong said, while attending the recent Synod on the Amazon in Rome.
“Marine life is the largest ecosystem on earth.
“Seventy per cent of our oxygen comes from there and it must form part of our discussion on integral ecology.”
It’s not the first time Archbishop Loy Chong has spoken out on the international stage about the climate threat to Pacific Island nations – he did the same while attending the 2019 Season of Creation launch in Brisbane in September.
During a homily in St Stephen’s Cathedral he explained how rising sea levels were forcing Fijians to move their houses to higher ground.
Rising seas is also a major theme in the newly-published Caritas report Seeds of Hope on the state of the environment in Oceania in 2019.
It is the latest in an annual series produced by Caritas that critically examines the wellbeing of Oceania and its peoples, and examines coastal erosion, extreme weather, access to safe local food and water, offshore mining and drilling, and climate finance.
Archbishop Loy Chong also finds time to write songs about the Pacific plight – his latest called The Climate Change Lament, with a rap section that demands: “People of the ocean – we gotta rise – to stop the violation against Creation.”
He also posts environmental videos online, deploring the destruction caused by industrial mining for gravel and minerals.
Mirroring the concerns of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ (On Care for Our Common Home) and the Amazon synod, he speaks frankly about the environment.
In Brisbane, Archbishop Loy Chong described first-hand how an environmental disaster unfolded near his mother’s village after the Chinese government set up a large stone quarry.
“They were extracting stones from the river to crush the stone (for export),” he said.
“… This is important because the quarry took away the stones and left all the mud.”
Without the rocks, floods or strong currents in the river then washed away all the soil to the sea.
The soil covered the coral reefs and the mangroves, “damaging the ecosystem”.
“And now when the people go to fish they cannot catch any fish because the breeding ground of the fish has been destroyed and they have moved away,” Archbishop Chong said.
He said these stories were common experiences in small-island nations of natural disaster and disasters caused by companies that exploited the environment.