On a lightning three-day visit to Fiji, the Archbishop of Canterbury has made a ringing public call for climate action. Archbishop Justin Welby attended the annual gathering of the Anglican primates of Australia, Melanesia, Papua New Guinea, and Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia.

Speaking at a public welcome by the president of Fiji, Major-General (Ret.) Jioji Konrote, in a traditional ceremony in the capital city of Suva, the archbishop said he counted it “a particular privilege to be in Fiji — which is playing such an important role in the worldwide campaign to change humanity’s attitude to climate change.”

The Fiji president referred to Welby’s soon-to-be released book Reimaging Britain: Foundations for Hope. Responding, the Archbishop said he had become aware of an error in his book. “In it I say that the issues of climate change are our duty to our descendants, to our children, and grandchildren. Well, that is true. But when you come to Fiji and listen to the stories of what is happening to the oceans, they are an issue for today as well. As important for today, as for the future.”

He said Fiji’s leadership in the global climate action was vital. “Here the oceans are rising, in much of Africa the deserts are spreading — in other places climate change is bringing storms on a scale that we have not seen before. It is the greatest challenge we face. And yet not every nation yet believes that it is a problem.”

The Oceana archbishops met in a closed session to discuss mission in Oceania and plans for the 2020 Lambeth Conference. Finally Archbishop Welby joined with the other archbishops in a symbolic event, boarding a vaka Uto Ni Yalo and sailing out to a sandbank in Suva Harbour, where they will celebrated the Eucharist, with the waters lapping at their feet.

John Martin

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