ON a day of global climate strikes by students, two of Oceania’s most influential Church leaders delivered an urgent environmental call to action.
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge and Suva Archbishop Peter Loy Chong described Oceania as being “on the frontline of climate change”.
“Elsewhere it may seem a matter of scientific debate or a distant prospect but, for the peoples of the Pacific, it is rapidly becoming a matter of life and death,” they said in a joint statement issued on September 20.
“That is why there is an urgency in our response to the Pope’s call for ‘ecological conversion’ and the action flowing from it.”
In Laudato Si’ (On Care for Our Common Home), Pope Francis urges people to hear “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” and to take action.
Archbishop Chong, in Brisbane to launch the Season of Creation, has spoken out about the plight of Pacific islanders affected by rising sea levels as a result of climate change, and other examples of environmental degradation.
“In Oceania and around the world, there is movement,” the archbishops said.
“Religious men and women, Church agencies, ecumenical and inter-religious groups and especially young people are part of this journey; and we as bishops want to walk with them into an ever greater awareness of the interconnectedness of all things in the God-given web of life.
“…We make a joint commitment to listen to the voice of creation across the Pacific, seeking to hear the voice of the Creator.
“We commit to acting upon what we hear – in the belief that we are not powerless but have been entrusted with the power of Easter faith which not only opens the eye and ear but also enables us to act so that humanity may find a way home to Paradise.”
In Brisbane, thousands of protesters poured into Brisbane city on September 20 to join the School Strike 4 Climate action.
Many students took the afternoon off school, but attended with parental and school support.
Brisbane Catholic Education said it supported students who were interested in political issues and who participated in debate about issues such as climate change.
BCE director for administrative services Michael Kearney said it was great to see young people passionate about these issues and wanting to make a change in the world.
However, Mr Kearney said it was also important they did this the right way.
He said there was a legal obligation for students to attend school during gazetted school hours.
“Our preference would be for students to attend such rallies outside of school hours because of legal requirements placed upon us,” Mr Kearney said.