This Paper (Solomon Star) just recently has carried a story about the people of Lord Howe and Ontong Java Atolls wanting to build a church building even when the islands are facing the unpredictable threats of the rising sea level.
As I read the story and think over the people’s intention to construct a church building, I started to ask.
Did the people in the midst of the threats posed by the effects of climate change really want to construct a church building or did they mean constructing strategies to save the Church which is the people on the two atolls? It is obvious that, in a situation sea rise is a constant threat the intention of the people is more than just constructing a church building. The underlying reason to say the least is somewhat a moral responsibility.
This article on the basis of moral responsibilities seeks to draw our attention to the plight of our peoples’ on the low lying atolls and coastlands in the country.
I am not an Ethicist, but the devastation on earth’s ecosystems taking place everywhere across the globe with no exceptions to Solomon Islands, is enough to offer our peoples the moral responsibilities they deserve.
Moral or ethical responses to climate change is about how to act from a right motive and how to find what is the right action to take in particular circumstances.
For the low lying Atolls, the entire atolls and its inhabitants waiting helplessly in the middle of the sea rise is a circumstance demanding everyone’s moral responsibility.
It is obvious that, the need to build a church building in the face of sea rise at a time the low lying atolls and coastlands are facing a possible submerge into the depths of the ocean is a moral concern for all peoples of good will. Unfortunately, the reality of sea rise is an issue of life and death without a foreseeable solution which those on the atolls could neither deal with it alone for obvious reasons.
The effect of climate change is a public knowledge.
Mother nature’s unpredictability is taking its toll in the low lying coastal areas and atolls in the Pacific region.
The magnitude of these unprecedented scenarios caused by human activities across the globe, are realities of immense concern for survival to the tiny island Nations of Kiribati, Tuvalu and their inhabitants including our Polynesian populations in the country.
Hoping for the effect of climate change one day will cease and people will then get on with their normal lives, this hope each day is increasingly illusive as threatening weather patterns bring with them stunning and terrifying scenarios of hopelessness to innocent peoples looking in disbelief as once were eternal islands about to submerge predictably into the bottomless deep of the ocean.
The obvious hopeless situations where many innocent people fear of losing a place in these atolls have triggered collective responses in the hearts of people of different faith confessions, Christians and non Christians together.
At stake, is the conviction to stage moral responsibilities based on our common humanity.
The common belief among religious persuasions is that, today it is not Ideologies, Religion or Faith Confessions that suffer, but human beings.
They suffer due to the consequences of human activities’ inflicted on mother earth.
Or as one Eco-theologian puts it ‘it happens because mother earth after billions of years giving birth to all lives on earth, today is mourning the loss of her own life in the hands of her children who could have saved her from depletion’.
In the current concern to save our peoples’ lives, right motives to act and the cause for right action to take is morally wanting.
The issue though, in the Solomon Islands the question of morality and ethics are seemed too far for religious considerations at a time environmental crisis are becoming immanent threats.
Such insensitivity doesn’t match well with the claim that, the Solomon Island is predominantly a quantitatively Christian country.
Predominantly Christian, with fractions of other non Christian religions, not forgetting the biggest number we have with our Melanesian wisdom spirituality about the natural world embedded still in our peoples’ oral beliefs and practices, Christians and non-Christians based on our common humanity along moral and ethical considerations should play a proactive role to act responsibly to the plight of our brothers and sisters in the low lying atolls.
Importantly, what of Christian revelation and religion’s ‘Best’ should we engage that would draw a collaborative approach to issues of immense responsibilities simple answers unable to give the best solutions?
Anyone would have thought that, the plight of our fellow human beings based on our common humanity should placed Christians and non-Christians in a better position to facilitate the cause for continual survival to our people in the low lying coastal areas and islands in the country.
Unfortunately, religious tolerance and respect to one another are ignored and the concern about our common humanity to save the lives of our own peoples is often a non topic for discussion in the religious quarters.
In contrast, the delaying tactics in situations people are vulnerable in the face of the ocean’s unpredictability must be avoided. Somewhat cynical, the scenario of realizing problems that will bring immediate devastation in the future, but peoples and organizations are unable to response in the best possible times not until death takes its course, is a well known scenario this country has witnessed in many occasions.
Today moral responsibility is pointing to us, that the future of what will become of the low lying coastal areas and islands are here.
To save the lives of our brothers and sisters in these vulnerable atolls, their concerns are not issues for the future when they are matters to attend to today.
Lives must be saved now, not when lives are taken prematurely before peoples of good will act.
And if morality is about how to act from the right motive and how to find what is the right action to take in an unavoidable situation, in the discourse of morality, it is inhumane to see lives lost before we act to save when we could have acted to save the lives of the innocent ones.
Moral responsibility is a concern about saving human life and ethics is the cause of our moral collaborations.
This concern disregards people’s faith confessions, religious persuasions, and doctrinal beliefs.
Instead the concern takes the ‘Life’ of everyone at risk as the most fundamental starting point.
This is because religious affiliation always puts our common humanity first when the lives of human persons are at risk.
And for Christians, the Bible from Revelation standpoint is giving us the mandate to act morally and along ethical grounds to save lives.
How best we interpret the Word of God for the right cause of actions in a context life must be saved is everyone’s response.
The rhetoric of political and religious language (we speak too much when we could have acted) denies the moral responsibilities of both Politic and Religion to safeguard lives. This is also due to the fact that ‘empathy’ in Christian moral responsibilities is tending to be replaced by ‘sympathy’, where feeling sorry because lives are lost is the last expression anyone could have accepted. Empathy in moral responsibility is about placing one’s inmost concerns in the hurts and the pains of another fellow human person. That experience lies at the heart of our common humanity. And from the vantage point of empathy, the God of Jesus Christ in his incarnation is someone who is standing with us in our flesh and blood.
The Scripture says; ‘tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin’ (Heb 4: 15) Jesus Christ is God experiencing the bangs of human miseries in our frail humanity.
The saving death of Jesus is grounded and rooted deep in that. Thus the self surrendering love of Christ takes its cause for our salvation because he shared our humanity and knew what evil has done in our inmost being.
In the context of the outlying atolls of Lord Howe and Sikaiana and many other vulnerable inhabited islands, moral responsibilities won’t take priority not until the beating hearts of these people’s miseries are pumping exhaustedly in our own hearts.
We must be them in us first before they are for us at our disposal. And that is what Christian love is all about.
In this regard, in the current situation we have where land disputes do not make any easier any way forward for the resettling of these peoples in the main islands, what moral responsibilities does the government take to resettle these peoples in our bigger islands?
As for the advocates of mitigation, does mitigation initiative process to curb the effects of climate change in a situation the unforeseen future the sea rise is going to delete an entire atoll from the face of the earth enough? Mitigation is better severed through advocacy processes especially in empowering and instilling in the minds of our ordinary peoples on the bigger Islands the plights of our brothers and sisters on the atolls.
I am opted to believe that, our people are compassionate people. The issue though, many of us living on the bigger islands lack the sense of powerlessness those on the atolls are concerned about each day.
The sense of powerlessness our brothers and sisters on the atolls have to live with each day is what our peoples on the main islands need to know about.
And mitigation proper should aim at lessening land disputes among communities to advocate networking strategies that in the end will lead to compassionate sense of acceptance to a landless people.
With hindsight, the Christian community for that matter, what moral responsibilities are the essences of the gospel of life we preach in these unpredictable and unescapable situations?
And in our interfaith dialogue with other non-Christians, what of ‘revelation and religion’s best can we offer to save life in order that religion may not be seen in the words of Karl Max ‘religion is the opium of the oppressed’ meaning (no matter you me suffer long here hemi alright nomoa because reward hemi ready for umi long heaven na)?
Except, expecting to be rewarded in heaven when our fellow human beings are suffering in front of our eyes is no more than sheer hypocrisy.
Alternatively, in case our moral responsibility is motivated by our paid jobs as the reasons why we talk about climate change, we’re reminded by the wisdom of a Native Indian Chief from British Columbia in Canada campaigning to save his peoples native forest reserves, and I hope what he said is not the reasons for our involvement to save the lives of our peoples in the atolls.
This is what he said and I quote, ‘It is only when the rivers are poisoned, the last tree from the forest is cut and no more sounds of the hemming birds, only then, that we know we can’t eat “paper money” (George Tinker, 1997).
Paper money worth when what makes its worth is in abundance, but it is worthless when what makes it worth is nonexistent.
For the same reason, it is insanity to wait until the atolls are gone, no floating canoes on the ocean, and no searching birds on the horizon, and only then we struggle to save the remaining lives.
Moral responsibility requires we act now to save lives. And any serious course of action to save the lives of our brothers and sisters on the atolls is necessary because they are human persons.
To conclude, this article only collaborates with all peoples of good will who are concerned about the atolls and its inhabitants to draw our awareness to the powerlessness our sisters and brothers are facing each day.
But to say that the atolls will soon sink tomorrow or in the not too far distance future, that is far from it.
Because the truth remains, the life of this world is a mystery unfolding each day in the hands of its Creator.
And with this hope, moral responsibility is a humane responsibility worth taking to save lives.
After all, the declaration of the end times is absolutely belongs to the Creator.
Long live the peoples on the low lying atolls of the Solomon Islands and the moana (seas) of Oceania.
By the Reverend Philemon Akao