Communities in the Pacific islands are on the front lines of climate change. Many are being forced to adapt to ever-changing and dangerous weather conditions or flee their lands. Despite this, the Pacific Islands are leading the call for global Climate Action. Auimatagi Joseph Moeono-Kolio is a Pacific Climate Warrior and is also a Consultant for Caritas Oceania. Here, he offers his reflections on the current Climate Crisis to Daniel Hale, CAFOD’s Head of Campaigns.
Daniel Hale: Talofa Auimatagi, thanks for making time to do this. First up, tell me something of the context of Oceania.
Auimatagi Joseph Moeono-Kolio: Talofa, Dan. Thanks for invitation. Well, where to start…the Pacific has been described in many ways by many people. For me, Oceania is a vast, “ocean continent”, with many different cultures and peoples spread over an area of more than 3 million square miles. We are connected by our ocean and shared history of resilience.
We have thousands of small islands, each with their own unique cultures. There’s Hawaii in the north, Rapanui to the West and Aotearoa in the deep south. In Oceania there is Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia and the many islands communities within and then Australia to the West.
Together, there are about 40 million people. We are very much connected to one another, to our Ocean and to our many rich cultures and languages.
Daniel Hale is CAFOD’s Head of Campaigns. In November, CAFOD will be hosting retreats all around the country, giving supporters a chance to reflect on faith and taking action in light of the Year of Mercy.
There are only three more weeks until the end of the Year of Mercy, the holy year called by Pope Francis to reflect on the mercy of God. Of course reflection is good at any time, but why did the Pope ask for this year to be the year?
I think it was a clever way to ask us to take a fresh look at the problems faced by the world and its people. The refugee crisis, to which Pope Francis had tried to draw so much attention was one such issue.
Over several years Francis had done a lot to promote the cause of refugees, including visiting Lampedusa, where so many migrants washed up on European shores. But the world was slow to act.
Dario Mitidieri began his career as a professional photographer in 1987 working for The Sunday Telegraph and The Independent newspapers. In his long and illustrious career, he has travelled to Tiananmen Square in Beijing to witness the army repression of students. He has also photographed the conflict in Northern Ireland, the Iraq War, the 2005 Tsunami in Indonesia and the Kobe Earthquake in Japan. He recently travelled to the Bekaa valley, Lebanon, with CAFOD and creative agency M&C Saatchi where he worked on studio-styled portraits of twelve families who have fled the conflict in Syria.
It is early – just before eight, but winding through the steep hill side roads of Lebanon’s capital Beirut, there is a frenzy of building work: hotels and luxury apartments going up. This ancient, open city is alive.
Once we leave the concrete landscape behind us, the undulating hills of the Bekaa valley – Lebanon’s agricultural pulse and once the ‘breadbasket of the Roman Empire’ – come into view. Overnight there has been a first dusting of snow on the hills.
Just over the mountain ridge, some nine kilometres away is the border with Syria.
I’m heading to a Syrian refugee camp, with CAFOD and its partner, the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Centre.
Just before Christmas, I came together with CAFOD, the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Centre and the creative agency, M&C Saatchi, to work on a unique project to highlight the plight of Syrian refugees: Lost Family Portraits.