A TEENAGE climate activist from Fiji spoke with a voice that was eloquent and passionate, in a way that could not be ignored.
AnnMary Raduva, a 16-year-old Year 11 student at St Joseph’s Secondary School in Suva, gave an impassioned plea for urgent action on climate change and ecological crises in Oceania.
She was sitting with Archbishop Peter Loy Chong in Suva as he joined Archbishop Mark Coleridge in Brisbane for the World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation and the launch of the 2020 Season of Creation in Brisbane and Fiji and around the Pacific.
Ms Raduva was a guest speaker during a Zoom meeting for the event, with young people from around the region joining in.
“I am 16 years old and I am part of the generation who may be the best hope for the cause for slowing the impacts of climate change and preserving what is left for our survival,” she said.
“We are lamenting; our reefs, our fishing grounds, our forests are crying with us.
“We must heal and reconnect; we must do it now.
“Today all over the world in big cities and small villages, in developed and still developing countries, in global powers and tiny island atolls, young people my age are mobilising and championing climate action.”
Ms Raduva urged Church leaders, politicians and adults “to give us a voice, a platform and a safe space”.
“We can completely change the conversation in our own words,” she said.
“It may not be what they want to hear but it is the message that comes straight from our hearts – no eloquent, PR-twisted speeches …, but raw and honest messages about climate change, our ecological crisis and the environmental responsibility.”
She said being an environmentalist and a climate justice activist “is not a hobby or an overnight, spur-of-the-moment thing” for her.
“It’s a way of life, and I am just speaking up from what the youth activists older than me started,” she said.
“Out of our anguish and disappointment we are telling the world that decisions made on climate change are too important to be left to our adults, who we cannot trust anymore.”
Ms Raduva said it was a “scary” time and she saw an urgency to her activism.
“In 10 years’ time I am going to be 26 years old and I don’t know what environmental or climate disasters that are going to happen,” she said.
“At the rate we are going, I don’t want to imagine it.
“We have seen how devastating Category 5 cyclones are and what they can do to our small islands.
“When I think of these disasters I am panicking; we are panicking.
“We have seen the extinction of species unfold right in front of us and a world that is deteriorating because of economic and national development, and corporate greed, and sometimes individual self-indulgence.
“We may be sidelined in many decision-making platforms but this only builds a momentum for us to be protagonists in the fight for our rights and wellbeing.
“I am convinced now that my purpose on our planet is to save it from the mess created by your generation and the generation before you.”
Her journey as an activist started with a prayer.
“My inspiration comes from my daily conversation with God through prayer,” she said.
“When I asked my parents to support me in my campaigning events they both agreed to pray with me.
“’Pray about it Ann Mary and God will guide you’ – these were my parents’ words.
“Prayer is the foundation of everything we do in our stewardship role as guardians of our planet and we must be good stewards of God’s creation.
“Let us be the guardians our Heavenly Father created us to be.
“Let us protect our planet the way He has protected us.
“May God bless all our plans and give us the wisdom to fulfil this responsibility.”
The event was held a year after Archbishop Coleridge and Archbishop Chong signed a joint statement committing to work together in living in the spirit of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ (On Care for Our Common Home).
“In the 12 months since we published the joint statement the overwhelming fact that has happened to us all is COVID-19,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“What’s very clear to me … is that the kind of crisis we are dealing with in this pandemic could only happen because we have disrupted a natural ecology built into the creation.
“I think in fact the pandemic didn’t just drop out of nowhere – and pointing the finger at China or wherever doesn’t really help.
“It shows the devastation that is unleashed when you interfere with the God-given interconnectedness of all things, the God-given web of life.
“Something has been radically disrupted to produce this pandemic, and whenever you do that kind of disrupting what is unleashed is always death and destruction.
“So I think, in fact, COVID-19 gives an added power to the word spoken by Pope Francis five years ago (in Laudato Si’) and even, dare I say it, added power to the joint statement that Peter and I made a year ago echoing the call of the Pope and echoing, I think, the voice of the Holy Spirit.”