Vanuatu’s religious call for climate justice


Around the world, people of faith are calling on their leaders to close the massive gap between what is required to limit global temperature rise and actual climate change commitments by governments and financial institutions.

Most religions hold core to their beliefs the sacredness of the earth and God’s creation, and so they are calling for world leaders to address the injustice and impacts that the climate crisis is inflicting on communities worldwide.

Two leaders of different faiths and beliefs in Vanuatu are standing behind the call for action on climate justice that was issued by a global solidarity from people of diverse religious and spiritual backgrounds on 11 March 2021. This was the biggest-ever-faith based global day of action to sound the alarm for climate Justice.

The Vanuatu Christian Council’s Secretary General, Pastor Shem Tema, lamented that “the destruction of Earth, our shared home, directly goes against the values and teachings which we Christian believers of faith, embrace and uphold. We feel it is our obligation to raise our voice against our current way of living, which is causing harm and destruction on a huge scale to our fellow inhabitants of the earth, including human and animal populations, and disruptions to the many diverse ecologies within which we exist, and acknowledge that we must reassess our concept of progress within the context of eco-justice to achieve a more just and equitable world for all.”

Pacific religious leaders have long-advocated for bold, urgent and transformational action to scale back human activities that are causing climate change; threatening the very survival, livelihoods, security and way of life of millions of islanders across the region. While the countries of the Pacific contribute little to nothing to the global greenhouse gas emissions, we are the ones unjustly bearing the brunt of its consequences.

The Legal Advisor and Secretary General of Vanuatu’s Islamic community, Auuad Leon Malantugun said that from the Quranic perspective of the environment “Human beings are able to use earth’s resources. But we have no right to exploit or destroy these resources that belong to God. Islamic academics have argued that the ecological crisis is a result of human greed and selfishness. We have lost our purpose of life, seeking satisfaction in material goods. The use of resources therefore needs to be in keeping with the nurturing and sustaining responsibilities of the role of stewardship.”

The Pacific Islands Climate Action Network (PICAN) is helping to raise the voice of religious groups and people of faith in the Pacific, and call out climate injustice affecting our people, and continue to sound the alarm of destructive climate change.

“These are the voices of the grassroots people of diverse faiths are rising to face the climate emergency. As people of faith, we cannot wait for governments and financial institutions to act. The fossil fuel industries are condemning our Earth to climate disasters that we might never come out of in a very long time. Pacific neighboring countries like Australia must stop extracting, burning and exporting fossil fuels, and in the meantime we are taking action to bring the issue of climate change to the International Court of Justice. The world’s highest court is expected through an advisory opinion, to acknowledge that countries and companies can be held legally accountable for the climate destruction communities are facing in the Pacific.” Lorenzo Raplili, PICAN Climate Justice Project Officer stated.

The 11 March 2021 Sacred People, Sacred Earth global day of action on climate Justice was organised by Green Faith International Network and included participants from over 400 grassroots religious organisations in 43 countries including Vanuatu.

The Pacific Island Climate Action Network (PICAN) is the largest network of civil society organisations in the Pacific Islands working on climate change. Established in 2013, the Network brings together non-government actors from across the Pacific island countries, advocating for climate justice and environmental integrity, and more ambitious climate change policies and action at the national and regional level. PICAN is the Pacific arm of the global Climate Action Network which has over 1,100 members in 120 countries.