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Calls on regional churches to address socio-political issues

By Bob Makin PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Sept. 28, 2011) – A recent meeting of the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) in Samoa issued a wake-up call to the churches in the region to be much more active in addressing the many political and social issues that threaten the Pacific Islands today.

Pastors Sethy and Dorothy Regenvanu represented the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu at the meeting, which was also a celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of PCC. The meeting highlighted the common issues facing all the Pacific Islands, especially economic injustice and unfair trade that continues to favor foreign companies and the industrialized world, and land alienation and degradation through large scale agriculture, mining and logging operations, and climate change.

"The church has a prophetic role to speak out against injustice and to dialogue with governments to produce policies and actions that enhance the life of all the people of a nation," said Dorothy. "The PCC has always worked with churches to support them in that role".

Pastor Sethy pointed out that independent countries can no longer blame outsiders for what has gone wrong in their countries. "We have only ourselves to blame" he said, "since we are the ones who make the decisions about what happens to our land and how we relate to foreign investors. The church has an important role in opening the eyes of people to the consequences of their own actions and the policy decisions made by our governments."

[PIR editor’s note: The Conference has been an active supporter of humanitarian and other aid projects in the Pacific region. In late 2010 during protests on Rapa Nui by the indigenous people of the island, police injured locals with rubber bullets and tear gas, for which the PCC "launched an aid effort" to help the indigenous Rapa Nui people and put pressure on the Chilean government to refrain from violence. Earlier in 2011, the PCC asked all the churches of the Pacific to offer humanitarian support to and prayers for those affected in the tragic flooding that occurred in Australia's Queensland area, during which at least 13 lost their lives.]

The president of French Polynesia, Oscar Temaru was present at the meeting to make an impassioned plea for Maohi Nui (the name preferred by the people of Tahiti) to be included again in the list of non-self-governing territories in the United Nations Committee on Decolonization. Not only [do they seek independence] but for adequate and proper compensation by France for the people who suffered as a result of nuclear testing in their country. Between 1966 and 1974, France exploded at least 43 nuclear weapons, including five hydrogen bombs in French Polynesia. A petition to that effect was signed by representatives of all the churches, and sent to both the South Pacific Forum and the United Nations.

[PIR editor's note: PCC leaders also criticized the Japanese government for the use of sea water to cool the reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant and returning that irradiated water into the larger Pacific Ocean. The Conference also called on governments around the Pacific to promote and adopt clean, renewable energy sources and condemn nuclear power altogether.]

Another important issue faced at the meeting was the place of youth in our societies. The secretary of the World Council of Churches, who was also at the meeting, asked, "How can there be peace in the world when there is no place for young people?" Youth are facing many challenges in today’s world, like unemployment, loss of traditional culture, and having no voice in decision making. "Youth represent the majority of our population," said Sethy. "We must not only provide programs for them, we must listen to them and involve them in leadership and decision making".

The next Assembly of the Pacific Conference of Churches will be held in 2012 in the Solomon Islands.

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