In the tiny Pacific nation of Tuvalu, climate change is a matter of life and death.
Rev Tafue Lusama is general secretary of the Congregational Christian Church of Tuvalu. Every day, he lives with the impact of climate change on his island home.
“If this small space is submerged under water, that is the end. That is the literal death of us a people,” Mr Lusama said.
Storms, drought and changing sea temperatures make daily life a struggle for survival. Wet and dry seasons are becoming less predictable.
Rising levels of salt and warmer water temperatures make it harder to catch fish and grow crops. Most food is now imported from Fiji, Australia and New Zealand.
UnitingWorld is inviting church members to take part in Lent Event and stand with their Pacific neighbours as they come to grips with the reality of climate change.
Throughout the 40 days of Lent, congregations are encouraged to give up something from their daily lives and raise funds to support UnitingWorld’s projects.
UnitingWorld has prepared a number of resources for congregations ahead of the Lenten season, which begins next Wednesday.
A series of weekly videos showcasing stories of hope, resilience and faith from Tuvalu, Fiji and Vanuatu can be downloaded from the Lent Event website. The videos are accompanied with worship resources, PowerPoint presentations, prayers and Bible studies.
Rev Dr Seforosa Carroll is UnitingWorld’s manager of church partnerships in the Pacific. She said Lent is a time for church members to reflect on how they can put their faith into action.
“We in Australia can learn so much from the passion and faithfulness of our sisters and brothers in the Pacific churches,” Dr Carroll said.
“In Tuvalu, the church is a beacon of hope assuring and enabling people to see that God is present in a time of crisis and suffering.”
This year’s Lent Event also shines a spotlight on family violence in Pacific island communities.
Women in the Pacific are more likely to experience violence at the hands of family members than women living anywhere else in the world.
In a region where more than 90 per cent of the people are Christian, churches play an influential role shaping cultural and social attitudes.
Dr Carroll said tackling family violence requires unpicking centuries of Biblical misrepresentations and unravelling theologies that justify violence against women.
“Pacific women are often referred to as the backbone of their communities,” Dr Carroll said.
“Unfortunately, given cultural and theological understandings of the place and role of women, women often don’t get the opportunity to express their gifts.”
Lent Event will support local churches as they train women and men to become advocates against domestic violence. It will also fund scholarships that promote opportunities for women in male-dominated theological courses.
“Thinking about Australia as a parallel community, our statistics in domestic violence aren’t that great either,” Dr Carroll said.
“This is where the Pacific churches and Australian churches can work together to eliminate violence against women and children.”
The videos and all worship resources can be downloaded on the Lent Event website.