In April this year I attended the Lausanne/WEA – Oceania Creation Care Consultation in Tahlee NSW, Australia. The aim of the consultation:
“is part of a global campaign to strengthen evangelical creation care movements. This regional consultation seeks to catalyse a movement of Christians who will develop new and strengthen existing creation care partnerships and initiatives throughout the Oceania Region.”
The consultation was over five days covering the themes of Oceans, Land, Forests and Fresh Water. Speakers from different countries and professional backgrounds spoke on these themes framed within Scripture, Culture and Science. Delegates also had an opportunity to break into focus group to discuss what we had learnt each day. The consultation was hosted by Tahlee Ministries where delegates stayed for the week enjoying the scenery, nature and hospitality provided.
My approach to the consultation was to learn about how the Christian community are bringing environmental issues to their congregations and wider Christian network, gather resources and to share the work I have been involved with through Tāmaki WRAP. In particular the work we have done with Christian churches and individuals, as well as to support my good friend on her journey to learn about Creation Care that is dear to her faith.
Leading up to the consultation I had bouts of apprehension, mainly to do with how I would fit into an Evangelical consultation. However my good friend Hinemoa “with your experience and my faith we make one legitimate entry into this consultation”. I was also reminded by husband to treat it as you do going on to marae, be open, be respectful (thankyou darling x). This definitely put me at ease and at no time was my faith questioned nor was I made to feel uncomfortable as a non Christian during the consultation.
At the consultation I was surprised to hear from a number of scientists reporting on climate change and other environmental issues. My naive view of Evangelical Christendom and many other religions couldn’t weave faith and science together. Marine Scientist Mitch Hollier explained during his presentation “Science as a way of worship – it glorifies and responds.” This explanation made me see how they can coexist in the context of environmental issues. My role as a waste facilitator is at a grass-roots community development level so it was good to take time to learn about the bigger picture of climate change and to put into perspective. It also made me think about where this fits into my own waste journey, and how this could be the next challenge for me to explore – a greater understanding and advocacy for environmental issues.
Real examples from people living in areas affected by climate change were confronting and sad to hear from various speakers. Aso Ioapo from Tuvalu Climate Change Network gave a compelling talk about the physical effects of climate change on Tuvalu, as well as social, spiritual and economical impacts. The crisis is real and his people are asking hard-hitting faith and theological questions to which he is struggling to answer. Ioapo urged Western Churches to advocate on Tuvalu’s (as well as other island nations struggling) behalf, to do away with consumerism and to stand in solidarity on these issues. Iaopo ended his presentation by showing a video that highlighted the physical effects of climate change on Tuvalu. It was very confronting and saddening to see a home washed away. Hearing from the Pacific Island nations made me think of my trip to Vava’u Tonga at the end of 2017. On the last day I managed to speak to Sekope Finau from the SDA in Tonga we talked briefly about waste. I feel I have unfinished business in Tonga and I hope some time in the future I will get to go there again, hopefully in a working capacity.
A highlight for myself and others from the NZ contingent was meeting and hearing from Marilyn Wallace and her husband Peter, traditional custodians of the land now called Australia and from the Nyungkal Ranger Service. We learnt about their culture, country and way of life through their presentation and in good spirits over dinner. Their work and genuine kindness is beautifully showcased in this video.
I picked up that Rev Dave Brookless A Rocha International Director of Theology who had a significant role in the consultation was a gardening advocate which I related to. Brookless’s final presentation talked about how it is important to set down your roots in your community – not just figuratively but literally and to learn something about your neighbour – all of which is Gospel. Gardening has been a meaningful experience for me over the years and it has helped my family find it’s place in our community. Another point that I found particularly interesting from Rev Dave Brookless was his explanation of the word ‘new’ in the Bible, and how this has been lost in translation. The word ‘kainos’ from the Greek New Testament translates to ‘renew’. Best that I not try and explain theological narrative, you can read this is discussion in his book Planetwise: Dare to Care for God’s World.
At night was a chance to share stories and short presentations on the projects that everyone was involved in. These were all very inspiring and our Tāmaki WRAP presentation was well received. It was noted by delegate Dr Andrew Shepard Eco-Theologian and Director of A Rocha NZ on the strong wāhine presence in our presentation. I think at times I take this for granted, I am so grateful to be surrounded, inspired and mentored by many wāhine toa everyday.
The focus groups were useful, however I found it hard to look at things top down. I saw the struggle in the church to make environmental issues relevant to their congregations. My contribution to many discussions was to encourage community led grass roots action. We both made some great connections all over the Pacific and we have plans for resource sharing and working together. On the final day each country got together to create a plan, the Aotearoa contingent was lucky to have Dr Andrew Shepard to lead the planning and he provided great advice and resources from A Rocha.
A day in Sydney en route back to Auckland we had some time for some sightseeing. We went to see some of the Sydney Biennale at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and on Cuckotoo Island. The work by Ai Wei Wei photographed above was a stark reminder of the current refugee crisis of 22 million worldwide, it also reminded me of discussions at the Consultation on the implications of the potential relocation of the Tuvalu people due to rising sea levels. People are connected to their land and relocation is not straight forward to say the least, if it is even an option.
It was a privilege and a pleasure to be part of the Aotearoa contingent, we think we represented well all of our projects, organisations and culture.
There are some great environmental resources on the NZ A Rocha website.
Also check out Cherished Earth – a climate justice initiative, connecting faith and creation care.