Pray for our Pacific: Finding strength in solidarity

Earlier this month, Pacific Island communities gathered together to summon the strength to confront the climate battles ahead. They were joined by communities from all over the world in a show of solidarity and support to collectively hold space for the Pacific.

Faith is a central tenet of Pacific Island communities, and climate change is often discussed through this lens within communities. Pray for our Pacific events were community-led and a way to process, talk about, focus on, and draw attention to the changes impacting their communities in a way that is consistent with their values and capacities. Pacific Islanders are used to hearing about the impacts of climate change from the outside. This is a movement that came from within and carried across the sea.

Pray for our Pacific: Finding strength in solidarity, strength in prayer

Anyone who has stepped foot on any of the Pacific islands – the real Pacific, not the islands in brochures – knows the strongest, longest-standing institutions are the religious ones. The voices coming from the mosques, temples and churches have the furthest reach, and resonate the most.

Over the weekend of September 9 to 11, religious communities from across the Pacific joined hands to meditate, contemplate, strategise, and draw strength from each other to face the challenges of climate change.

The Pray For Our Pacific events were like the sound of the davui from a long time ago, when tribal leaders used it to summon those who could bring their varied gifts to strengthen and nurture the entire tribe as they prepared for battle.  

In today’s world, religious institutions have become the davui – and people answered the call and showed up in a mass moment of solidarity.

We gathered in our communities and prayed in all the different ways that we know how. We summoned our inner strength to confront our biggest challenge, and affirm that we can survive the rising seas.

The event is part of an emerging, grassroots movement in the Pacific for climate change action, empowering people to bring these messages of action and strength back to their own tight-knit communities.

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Member of Masjid Noor Mosque, Flagstaff, Suva

“Excessive pollution from fossil fuels threatens to destroy the gifts bestowed on us by God, whom we know as Allah – gifts such as a functioning climate, healthy air to breathe, regular seasons, and living oceans. But our attitude to these gifts has been short-sighted, and we have abused them. What will future generations say of us, who leave them a degraded planet as our legacy? How will we face our Lord and creator?” – Islamic Declaration on Climate Change

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Members of Masjid Noor Mosque, Flagstaff, Suva

“God created the Earth in perfect equilibrium (m?z?n); by his immense mercy we have been given fertile land, fresh air, clean water and all the good things on Earth that make our lives here viable and delightful. The Earth functions in natural seasonal rhythms and cycles – a climate in which living beings, including humans, thrive; the present climate change catastrophe is a result of the human disruption of this balance.” –  Islamic Declaration on Climate Change

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Members of Masjid Noor Mosque, Flagstaff, Suva

A long time ago, before the world was what it is today, our forefathers were one with nature. They saw no distinction between the natural and the spiritual.

Our people may have changed the way they worship, but our reverence for the oceans, the mountains and their land remains. We treat our natural world like one of our loved ones. And like so many around the world, when we see a loved one hurting, we do everything we can to help.

Then, in the quiet of the night, we say a little prayer for healing.

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Devotees at the Shirdi Sai Mandir during the Ganesh Utsav. Devotees will gather there for a total of 10 days and were happy to give us a slot to talk about Pray for the Pacific… and include a special prayer!

“We call on all Hindus to expand our conception of Dharma. We must consider the effects of our actions, not just on ourselves and those humans around us, but also on all beings. We have a Dharmic duty for each of us to do our part in ensuring that we have a functioning, abundant, and bountiful planet.”Hindu Declaration on Climate Change

Members of the Masjid Noor at Flagstaff, Suva, deep in thought during the Pray For Our Pacific event on September 9, 2016. Photograph: Joeteshna Zenos/Greenpeace

Altar created for ramayan recital

“O Mother Earth! Draped by the oceans, adorned with mountains and jungles, the consort of Lord Vishnu. I bow to you, forgive me for stepping upon you with my feet.”Hindu Morning Prayer

Joeteshna Zenos is the acting head of Pacific Net, Greenpeace Australia Pacific’s climate justice project.