Through the process of storytelling and talanoa, a local term in Fiji to describe a participatory dialogue, the Oceania-Asia faith delegation led by the River above Asia Oceania Ecclesial Network (RAOEN), Mission Society of Saint Columban, Caritas Internationalis, and the Laudato Si’ Movement is organizing Oceania Talanoa: Faith, Indigenous, and Nature’s Moana Shaping and Safeguarding Innovations of the Sea, an in-person event parallel to the 2022 UN Ocean Conference, on 28 June 2022 at the Colégio Pedro Arrupe in Lisbon, Portugal.
In this ocean dialogue, stories and concerns from the unique bioregion of Oceania are shared to amplify the voices of the most vulnerable, as well as ideas for action.
Due largely to its low and dispersed population, Oceania and Asia remain one of the world’s most neglected biogeographic realms. That neglect sits in inverse proportion to its importance in sustaining all life on Earth: a status defined by its very name and its nature. Oceania is ocean and oceans are integral life support systems for all.
Ocean States in the Pacific are increasingly bearing the brunt of the ecological impacts of extractive industries such as deep sea and black sand mining, and overfishing, among others. The Pacific Ocean is a known global climate determinant and rising global temperatures are currently exacerbating extreme weather events and causing sea levels to rise in Oceania and Asia. At the forefront are local and Indigenous communities that are resilient in many ways beyond Western cultures, yet so many are struggling to adapt to the multiple crises that they face caused by disruptive ecological, economic and ongoing covid health crises affecting lives, livelihoods and cultural integrity.
Also at the forefront are faith-based organizations (FBOs) and movements, and local dioceses and parishes that amplify and uplift the voices of the most vulnerable through years of community accompaniment. FBOs have the capacity and heart to respond with a shared gratitude for Creation and basic recognition of the common good, drawn from spiritual values, morals, and ethics.
Addressing the concerns of oceans, biodiversity, and people is not possible without collaboration, meaningful dialogue, and lobby for policy change. The 2022 UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, is critical in bringing these concerns forward. The event strongly echoes the Conference’s theme “Save our Ocean, Protect our Future” through the stories that the delegates will be sharing, grounded from their own experiences from the communities they are engaging with, and their calls for serious action.
Joining the event are: Theresa Ardler (Gweagal Cultural Connections in Australia), Archbishop Peter Loy Chong (Archdiocese of Suva in Fiji and the Federation of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Oceania), Malialosa Tapueluelu (Caritas Tonga), Pedro Walpole SJ (River above Asia Oceania Ecclesial Network and Institute of Environmental Science for Social Change), Tevita Naikasowalu (Columban Mission Office in Fiji), Sr. Robyn Reynolds OLSH (Yarra Theological Union of the University of Divinity in Australia), Tita Kara (Civil Society Forum of Tonga), Sir John Cardinal Ribat (Archdiocese of Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea), and Amy Echeverria (Mission Society of St. Columban and Ecology Task Force of the Vatican Covid-19 Commission).
The in-person event will be held on 28 June, Tuesday, 6:30pm to 8:00 pm Western European Summer Time (WEST) and is open to all. In-person participants and the delegates will also have time to interact with each other and engage in meaningful dialogue.
The event is livestreamed in YouTube and can be accessed here. For the Portuguese translation (Oceania Talanoa: Fé, Indígenas, Natureza Moana moldando e salvaguardando inovações do Mar), the YouTube livestream can be accessed here.