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Dr. Elisapesi Havea (New Zealand) pictured with Rev. Catherine Chang (Philippines) and Dr. Asa Nausner (Sweden).
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Climate-Induced Migration and Methodist Commitment

Elisapesi Havea —

Dr ‘Elisapesi Hepi Havea represented the Methodist Church of New Zealand Te Hāhi Weteriana o Aotearoa at the World Methodist Council Consultation on Migration in Manila, Philippines from September 4-7, 2023. She shares insights from the event that included delegates from Methodist churches and organisations worldwide.

The purpose of the event was to delve into the intricate matter of migration and how, as members of the Methodist church, we can collaborate effectively in solidarity to address the associated challenges. The overarching theme of this consultation was "On the Move," building upon the foundation laid by the inaugural Consultation on Migration in London, England in 2019 and the resulting declaration titled "God Is On The Move: A Call to Be the Church in a New Way - World Methodist Council."

The Manila Consultation was deeply rooted in theological principles of love for migrants and welcoming one another, as expressed in Leviticus 19:34 and Matthew 25:35. Additionally, it drew inspiration from John Wesley's example of intentional presence within marginalised communities.

I had the privilege of delivering a presentation that centered on climate-induced migration, with a specific focus on the Pacific region. The presentation illuminated the dedication of the Methodist Church of New Zealand in addressing climate change. This contribution was of significant importance, given that I was one of just two delegates from the Pacific region. The Secretary General of the Samoan Methodist Church and I were the only participants who presented on issues pertaining to climate change.

My presentation addressed the ramifications of climate change and shed light on the proactive initiatives undertaken by the Methodist Church of New Zealand. I emphasised the ongoing endeavours of the Climate Justice Working Group within the church, actively engaged in formulating a policy to address climate-induced migration. The objective of this policy is to prompt the Methodist Church of New Zealand Te Hāhi Weteriana o Aotearoa to formally acknowledge climate-induced migration as a matter of climate justice. Additionally, it aims to advocate with the New Zealand government for the establishment of legal migration pathways, specifically through the issuing of access category visas tailored to the needs of Pacific individuals who face the prospect of climate-induced displacement.

One noteworthy initiative that I emphasised during my presentation pertains to the "Decade of Climate Justice" (2023-2033), titled 'Rekindle the Vā of Papatuānuku.'

My presentation stood out for its distinctive approach, as it wove together the narratives and first-hand experiences of Pacific people who are already confronting the stark challenges posed by climate change. Through the sharing of their personal stories and apprehensions, the presentation served as a revelation, emphasising the urgent imperative to address climate change in the context of migration.

The consultation recognised the urgency of the climate crisis and, as a result, issued a vital declaration and commitment. This declaration urges all churches to assume their responsibility regarding the climate crisis. It emphasises the importance of paying particular attention to enforced displacement from climate-threatened nations in the Pacific and low-lying regions across the globe. It calls on churches from the global north to take proactive steps, including:

  1. Rapid Reduction of Carbon Emissions: Churches are urged to do everything within their power to swiftly reduce carbon emissions.
  2. Demanding Government Action: Churches are encouraged to demand immediate action from their governments to address climate change.
  3. Development of Climate-Related Categories of Asylum: There is an insistence that governments create climate-related categories of asylum to address the needs of those displaced by climate change.
  4. Reviving the Calling as Co-Caretakers of Creation: Churches are called upon to re-embrace their role as co-caretakers of creation, aligning with a more sustainable and responsible approach towards the environment.

The presentation not only highlighted the impacts of climate-induced migration but also played a pivotal role in drawing attention to climate change as an integral part of the consultation's discussions on migration. This declaration underscores the commitment of the Methodist Church and the global Methodist community to address the climate crisis and its consequences for displaced populations, particularly in the Pacific and other vulnerable regions.

I'd like to conclude this article by expressing my heartfelt gratitude, saying "Mālō ‘aupito" (Thank you very much) to the Methodist Church of New Zealand Te Hāhi Weteriana o Aotearoa for granting me the opportunity to participate in the Manila Consultation. As a member of the Climate Justice Working Group, attending this consultation has been an invaluable learning experience. It has opened my eyes to essential information that is extremely pertinent to our work on climate-induced migration policies.