A common conception of justice underlies Pacific churches’ message on climate change

  • Philip Cass Unitec
Keywords: Bougainville, churches, climate change, Fiji, migration, Pacific, Papua New Guinea, Pope Francis, Tonga


This article presents an overview of the role mainstream  churches can play in mitigating the climate change crisis in the Pacific and their role in facilitating climate induced migration. It builds on earlier work by the author (Cass, 2018; 2020) with a focus on Fiji, Tonga and Papua New Guinea. Both Catholic and Protestant churches share a concern for the future of the planet based on the principles of economic, social and climate justice, which complement moral and ecumenical imperatives. The article examines what message the churches convey through the media and the theology that underlines them.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...


Al Jazeera (2020, April 9). Pacific’s monster storm Harold destroys tourist resorts in Tonga. Retrieved June 3, 2020, from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/4/9/pacifics-monster-storm-harold-destroys-tourist-resorts-in-tonga.

Associated Press (2017, September 27). Don’t be afraid! Pope starts campaign to promote migrants Retrieved August 4, 2019, from https://apnews.com/article/49d246377b924a3f818f7c967be4ab60

Bartholomew, H.A.H. (2014). Patriarchal greetings. In L. Andriano, J. Sneep, G. Kerber and R. Atfield (Eds.), Sustainable Alternatives for Poverty Reduction and Eco-Justice (ix-x). Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Bausch, C. (2016, September 13). A letter from Rome: ‘Laudato Si’ as a catalyst for societal transformation? Retrieved January 3, 2020, from https://www.ecologic.eu/13507

Bowling, M. (2018, May 2). Australian Catholic bishops call on governments to tackle climate change. Catholic Outlook. Retrieved February 1, 2020, from https://catholicoutlook.org/australian-catholic-bishops-call-on-governments-to-tackle-climate-change.

Burke, I. (2018). The impact of Laudato Si on the Paris climate agreement. Retrieved January 1, 2019, from https://lisd.princeton.edu/publications/impact-laudato-si%E2%80%99-paris-climate-agreement

Caritas. (2018). Water of life, ocean of mercy, Wellington, NZ: Caritas New Zealand.

Caritas (n.d). Solidarity. Retrieved from https://caritas.org.nz/catholic-social-teaching/solidarity

Cass, P. 2018a (2018, February 12). State of emergency declared as Cyclone Gita bears down on Tonga. Kaniva News. Retrieved March 12, 2020, from https://kanivatonga.nz/2018/02/state-emergency-declared-cyclone-gita-bears-tonga/

Cass, P., 2018b (2018, February 25). Recovery process begins, but crops devastated and nearly half fishing fleet damaged. Kaniva News. Retrieved on April 14, 2019, from https://kanivatonga.nz/2018/02/recovery-process-begins-crops-devastated-nearly-half-fishing-fleet-damaged.

Cass,P. (2018). A plan nobody hopes they will need: New Zealand and climate change migration. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 24(1), 138-153. https://doi.org/10.24135/pjr.v24i1.426 DOI: https://doi.org/10.24135/pjr.v24i1.426

Cass, P. (2020). Some aspects of climate change communication and effectiveness in PNG. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 26(1), 148-163. https://doi.org/10.24135/pjr.v26i1.1106 DOI: https://doi.org/10.24135/pjr.v26i1.1106

Cooke, H (2020, February 26). Climate change: NZ pumps $2m into helping Fijian villages relocate. Stuff. Retrieved March 1, 2020, from https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/119833791/climate-change-nz-govt-pumps-2m-into-helping-fijian-villages-relocate

Diocesan News. (2015, November 27). We chose to fight. Retrieved March 2, 2020, from http://www.auckanglican.org.nz/latest-news/media-releases/we-chose-to-fight-climate-change-rather-than-drown

Fangongo. (2020, September 22) Cardinal Paini Mafi: ‘Mother Nature lament for destroying God’s creation’. Retrieved September 23, 2020, from https://fangongomediawatch.com/breaking-news/cardinal-paini-mafi-mother-nature-lament-for-destroying-gods-creation/

Glatz, J. (2017, August 30). Pope, Orthodox patriarch issue joint plea for care of creation. National Catholic Reporter Online. Retrieved June 26, 2019, from https://www.ncronline.org/news/environment/pope-orthodox-patriarch-issue-joint-plea-care-creation

Grantham, J. (2018, February 28). Tongan Cardinal’s Australian interview. Catholic Outlook. Retrieved on 28 February 2020, from https://www.catholicoutlook.org/exclusive-tongan-cardinals-australian-interview/

International Catholic Migration Commission. (2020, March 27). God’s language speaks to victims, including those of climate change. Retrieved March 28, 2020, from https://www.icmc.net/2020/03/27/gods-language-speaks-to-victims-including-those-of-climate-change

Kempf, W. (2009) A sea of environmental refugees? Oceania in an age of climate change. In Hermann, E., Klenke, K. & Dickhardt, M. (Eds.), Form, Macht, Differenz: Motive und Felder ethnologischen Forschens (pp.191-205) Gottingen, Germany: Universitätsverlag Göttingen. DOI: https://doi.org/10.17875/gup2020-1284

Kempf, W. (2012). Climate change, migration, and Christianity in Oceania. In. Hastrup, K. and Fog Olwig, K. (Eds.), Climate Change and Human Mobility: Challenges to the Social Sciences (pp. 235-257). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Latu, K. (2018, February 13). Falling trees and downed power poles hinder relief effort, says minister. Kaniva News. Retrieved February 13, 2020, from https://kanivatonga.nz/2018/02/falling-trees-downed-power-poles-hinder-relief-effort-says-minister.

Lozano, M. (2018, September 10). Fiji: ‘God has heard the cry of my people.’ Retrieved September 11, 2020, from https://acn-canada.org/tag/fiji/

Luetz, J. M and Nunn, P. (2020). Climate change adaptation in the Pacific islands: A review of faith-engaged approaches and opportunities. In Filho, W. (Ed), Managing climate change adaptation in the Pacific region (pp. 293-312). Cham: Springer.

McDermott, J., (2015, February 9.) Our church has to shine out: Cardinal-Elect Soane Patita Paini Mafi, Tonga. America: The Jesuit Review. Retrieved April 27, 2020, from https://www.americamagazine.org/content/dispatches/our-church-has-shine-out-cardinal-elect-soane-patita-paini-mafi-tonga

Mafi, Cardinal Soane Patita. (2019, June 2). Personal correspondence.

Methodist Church of New Zealand/Te Haahi Weteriana O Aotearoa. (2018). Climate Justice Policy. Retrieved September 1, 2020, from https://businessdocbox.com/100753515-Green_Solutions/Climate-justice-policy.html

Methodist Church of New Zealand/Te Haahi Weteriana O Aotearoa. (2020). Public Issues Network. Retrieved August 6, 2020, from http://www.methodist.org.nz/public_questions_network/index3

Mitchell, R., & Grills, N. (2017). A historic humanitarian collaboration in the Pacific context. Christian Journal for Global Health, 42, 87-94. DOI: https://doi.org/10.15566/cjgh.v4i2.160

New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference. (2016, May 18). On migration for the day of prayer for refugees & migrants. Retrieved April 5, 2020, from https://www.catholic.org.nz/about-us/bishops-statements/on-migration-for-the-day-of-prayer-for-refugees-and-migrants

New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference. (2006, September 1). Statement on Environmental Issues. Retrieved April 5, 2020, from https://www.catholic.org.nz/about-us/bishops-statements/statement-on-environmental-issues/

O Flaherty, M. & Pontifex, J (2018, August 26). Fiji archbishop: Our island is disappearing because of climate change. Independent Catholic News. Retrieved May 3, 2020, from https://www.indcatholicnews.com/news/35513

Pabst, A. (2016). Coalitions for change in an age of global threats. Retrieved February 18, 2020, from


Pacific Climate Change Portal. (2020, June 30). Pacific takes stock of COP25 in lead-up to next global climate change conference. Retrieved October 2, 2020, from https://www.pacificclimatechange.net/news/pacific-takes-stock-cop25-lead-next-global-climate-change-conference

Phan, P. (2014). Embracing, protecting and loving the stranger: A Roman Catholic theology of migration. In E. Padilla and P. Phan (Eds.), Theology of migration in the Abrahamic religions (pp. 77-110). New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan.

Pope Francis, (2015, May 24). Laudato Si. Retrieved April 16, 2020, from http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html

Pope, M. (2018). The sea is eating the ground: A theology of sea level rise. Anglican Theological Review, 100(1), 79-92. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/000332861810000109

Qiliho, A. (n.d). Toward a climate change solution. Retrieved May 24, 2020, from http://www.anglican.org.nz/content/download/36881/186385/file/Bishop%20Api%20-%20Eco-Bishops%20Report.pdf.

Radio New Zealand. (2019, January 8). Pacific churches urged to take on climate change fight. Retrieved February 10, 2019, from https://www.rnz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/379672/pacific-churches-urged-to-take-on-climate-change-fight

Radio New Zealand. (2020, August 31). Bougainville govt asked to step up for Carterets settlers. Retrieved September 1, 2019, from https://www.rnz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/424849/bougainville-govt-asked-to-step-up-for-carterets-settlers

Rakova, U. (2014). The sinking Carteret Islands: leading change in climate change ad-aptation and resilience in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. In S. Leckie (Ed.), Land solutions for climate displacement (pp. 278-290). London, UK: Routledge.

Rathgeber, T. (2011, May 17). Climate justice and human rights. Presentation at the meeting of the WCC’s Working Group on Care for Creation and Climate Justice. Retrieved December 3, 2020, from https://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/wcc-programmes/justice-diakonia-and-responsibility-for-creation/climate-change-water/climate-justice-and-human-rights

Reid, C. (2016, June 13). Pope Francis, the common good and global climate change. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/pope-francis-the-common-g_b_7577306?guccounter=1.

Royal Society of New Zealand. (2018, March 12). Royal Society Te Apārangi supports joint statement on climate change by Commonwealth academies of science. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://royalsociety.org.nz/news/royal-society-te-aparangi-supports-joint-statement-on-climate-change-by-commonwealth-academies-of-science/

Wheeling, K. (2017, November 12). How the Methodist church in Fiji is helping to lead on climate action. Pacific Standard. Retrieved January 3, 2020, from https://psmag.com/environment/cop23-methodist-church-helping-lead-climate-action-fiji

White, T. (2019) Christianity and climate change adaption: sea-level rise and ritualising village relocation in Fiji. Sites, 16(1), 44-69. DOI: https://doi.org/10.11157/sites-id431

World Council of Churches. (2004, March 11). Otin Tai Declaration. Retrieved on 18 June 2020 from https://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/wcc-programmes/justice-diakonia-and-responsibility-for-creation/climate-change-water/otin-tai-declaration

PJR icon
How to Cite
Cass, P. (2020). A common conception of justice underlies Pacific churches’ message on climate change . Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 26(2), 88-101. https://doi.org/10.24135/pjr.v26i2.1139

Most read articles by the same author(s)

1 2 > >>