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Today in the Mission Yearbook

Exposing the moral and migrational implications of climate change


Peace & Global Witness Offering contributes toward mitigating the trauma of global and geopolitical neighbors

November 21, 2023

Kotema Lanto

Of the many tools a farmer can usually rely on to help ensure a successful crop yield — resources to control weeds, fight pests or build healthy soil — Kotema Lanto found nothing in his toolkit to counteract the devastating impact of climate change on the family farm.

And there was certainly nothing within his grasp to prevent him from having to uproot his family from the place they once called home.

As residents of Nui Island — one of a group of low-lying Islands and atolls in the South Pacific Ocean that make up the small nation of Tuvalu — Lanto and his young family have been battered over time by the destructive effects of climate change, eventually culminating in their forced migration inland.

“Not only did they have to move further inland,” said Maina Talia, a former International Peacemaker for the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, “but they have been unable to return to the place where they grew up. For people who have no choice other than to leave their homes, there aren’t just financial, agricultural and practical implications, but moral implications as well because they’ve been living in a place for their entire lives. This is where they’re attached to; and, when they move on a small island, they are also intruding into other people’s space, creating internal conflicts.”

Because Tuvalu is especially vulnerable to tropical cyclones, rising sea levels and global pollution, after Tropical Cyclone Pam struck the small island nation in 2015, some 45% of its residents — just like Kotema — were displaced.

“Climate change is unpredictable, especially when it comes to shifting weather patterns,” he said. “It’s difficult to predict when there will be a cyclone.”

Maina Talia

Talia, who regularly works and engages with various nongovernmental organizations, including the Pacific Conference of Churches and Ekalesia Kelisiano Tuvalu (the Tuvalu Christian Church) on a variety of environmental issues, was instrumental in securing funding from the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives for an early warning system to communicate during cyclones and a 15kva solar system to power the Ekalesia Kelisiano Tuvalu head office.

He has also just completed his Ph.D. on the concept of neighbor in Luke 10, the “Good Samaritan,” as viewed through the lens of geopolitics and climate change, which he sees as intimately related to his pursuit of peace and justice.

“In context of climate change and geopolitics, our neighbor is no longer someone living next door to us, but rather someone who is impacted by our actions,” he said.

Talia’s call to peacemaking — including addressing the escalating economic, moral, food security and safety issues that result from the impact of climate change — is made possible, in part, by gifts to the Peace & Global Witness Offering, traditionally received on World Communion Sunday, which this year fell on Oct. 1.

Kotema Lanto, at right, is one to pitch in and help during a time of need. (Contributed photo)

The Peace & Global Witness Offering is unique in that half of it is directed to peacemaking and global witness efforts at the national church level to address critical issues around the world. Twenty-five percent is retained by congregations for local peace and reconciliation work, and 25% goes to mid councils for similar ministries on the regional level.

Talia’s peacemaking work not only involves research and teaching, but also advocacy on behalf of his neighbors, who live in constant fear.

“Although the government can provide food and shelter, we have to ensure that our neighbors are in a good state of mind to continue with the work that they do,” he said. “Pre- and post-trauma counseling is important for us. The Church in Tuvalu is looking into the issue very seriously.”

Talia said that he greatly respects what the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has done in the past and is doing now when it comes to peace. He hopes to continue to build a network with the PC(USA) and its members toward both mutual understanding and working for climate justice.

As Talia continues to highlight Tuvalu and the Pacific on the issue of climate change he embodies Christ’s call to peace, love and justice as it is exemplified by the Matthew 25 movement.

Emily Enders Odom, Associate Director of Mission Communications, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Today’s Focus: Peace & Global Witness Offering

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Gabrialla Rudovic, Housekeeper, Stony Point Center, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Joseph Russ, Coordinator for Migration Issues, Advocacy & Mission with the Northern Triangle, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Let us pray

Father, our hearts ache for our siblings around the world who struggle in the hands of poverty. Continue to sow your seeds of hope, grace and love among us, so that we may find new life and freedom in Jesus. Amen.