Islanders forced to move to higher ground: Archbishop

Archbishop Peter Loy Chong and Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge concelebrate Mass at St Stephen’s Cathedral, Brisbane, on Sunday (The Catholic Leader)

A leader of the bishops of Oceania has given Brisbane Catholics a personal account of the climate threat engulfing Pacific island nations. Source: The Catholic Leader.

Oceania Federation of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences president Archbishop Peter Loy Chong spoke of the crisis in a homily at midday Mass in St Stephen’s Cathedral on Sunday.

He was a guest of the Brisbane Archdiocese for the launch of the 2019 Season of Creation, an ecumenical celebration held annually from September 1 to October 4, the feast of St Francis of Assisi.

It was also a re-launch by the Archdiocese’s Living Laudato Si’ steering committee of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’ (On Care for Our Common Home).

The Archbishop of Suva, Fiji, told the congregation of how rising sea levels were forcing Fijians to head to higher ground.

Archbishop Chong said when his grandfather’s house close to the sea was burnt to the ground 14 years ago he chose to rebuild on higher ground.

“Today, 14 years later, most of the houses have moved away from the shore and they’ve moved up (on to higher ground),” he said.

“They could see, after many years of living close to the shoreline, the sea was moving up.”

Archbishop Chong said Kiribati was another Pacific island nation being forced to adjust to rising seas.

“The World Bank says that in 2050, some of those islands (of Kiribati) will be 50 per cent under water … The Government of Kiribati has bought a big piece of land, probably about 100 acres (40ha) of land in Fiji for relocation of people from Kiribati.”

Archbishop Chong said it would mean not just leaving their land but also their culture as they faced the challenge of “melding” with the Fijian culture.

He said these stories were common experiences in small-island nations of natural disaster and disasters caused by companies that exploited the environment.

He said Pope Francis, in Laudato Si’, taught that “the root cause of the ecological crisis is what he calls the techno-economic paradigm and our misguided way of looking at where human beings are in this world”.

“The techno-economic paradigm, unfortunately, does not see life as a web of inter-connectedness. We have lost our relationship, an inter-relatedness with Creation and with other people.”


Archbishop Peter Loy Chong sees islanders move to higher ground, visits Brisbane to raise awareness (The Catholic Leader

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