Meet some inspiring young Christian leaders from Australia and the Pacific, and hear how they are living out their faith and influencing change.
In November last year, a group of emerging leaders were part of Tearfund’s delegation to the Pacific Australian Emerging Leaders Summit in Canberra. The Summit, a joint initiative between Micah Australia and the Pacific Council of Churches, brought together over 90 young leaders from the Pacific and across Australia to meet with politicians, share the stories of their communities and advocate on issues that impact our region. Climate justice was a major focus of the discussions.
As Tearfund’s 2022 research report revealed, young Christians are highly engaged with climate change and increasingly concerned about its impact. The Summit provided a transformative opportunity to gather and equip young people who will shape the future of climate justice in Australia and beyond.
I work with Ola Fou Solomons, as a project liaison officer in my community. I live in Honiara, in the Solomon Islands.
Climate is a global issue. And it will affect us most. My fear is for the Pacific especially. When I’ve talked with Marshall Islands and Kiribati young leaders, I can hear their emotions, emotional stories.
In the Solomon Islands we have an atoll called Ontong Java. It’s not good when the sea level rises. When it rises, it almost takes the whole land. So people have to build higher houses and they only grow certain types of food that can adapt to the environment. It’s very bad in the Solomon Islands. It forces people to leave. They are leaving.
Through Ola Fou, someone came and spoke to our community to teach us about disaster preparedness. It gave us an understanding of how we could map a community and what will happen after 10 years, 20 years, so we can look ahead. I think after 40 years some islands will disappear.
One thing that most inspired me during the summit is the idea of approaching leaders, political leaders. In my government, I don’t do that. I thought, they lead us, and I don't have the capacity or the courage to approach political leaders. Because I think that those political leaders are unapproachable … I can’t approach them, or I can’t do advocacy with my capacity. But as I attended the summit, I realised that they are just human, just like me. I can approach them, share my stories.
And I learned a lot from First Nations people. They have the heart to show us Pacific Islanders how we can advocate.
Raymond Talasivo is a graduate of the leadership training program run by Ola Fou, Tearfund’s partner in the Solomon Islands. He now works as a community liaison officer with Ola Fou.
As a Christian I see climate change as a challenge to the full kingdom life: the full, thriving picture of what it means to live as God's people in his creation.
What concerns me most about the unfolding climate crisis is its holistic impact and its intergenerational impact. Knowing that climate change will impact many, many generations after us is a huge weight on my heart. And we have a very small window of time to act.
I knew before coming to the summit that climate change had a very real impact, a disproportionate impact, on the communities that have least contributed to the challenges we're facing right now. But when you are sitting beside a Samoan brother or sister; when you're hearing directly from one of your new friends from Kiribati on saltwater intrusion; when you're listening to a sister in Christ from Tonga sharing about the impact that climate change has had on their ability to grow their crops, to access fresh water; when you learn from your brothers and sisters in the Cook Islands that climate change is affecting the ability of people to buy food comfortably, and influencing rising cost of living, it's so different.
And it's not just a problem and a challenge faced by our Pacific neighbours, it's not just a challenge faced by our First Nations members; it's a challenge faced by all of us, it's our challenge as a region.
When I think about climate justice, what gives me hope is the ability of our First Nations and Pacific communities to adapt and creatively innovate when it comes to responding to the effects of climate change. Also bringing me hope is that as a church family, we're so connected across the Pacific, and there's such a deep love for Jesus and deep vision of what it looks like to live a full, holistic kingdom life. I think having that shared faith together as a region is a beautiful platform, because it allows us to pray for one another, it allows us to connect in worship together, it allows us to build a community and a network.
Ben Howes is a children's ministry leader, primary teacher and wildlife conservationist. He has spent the last few years conducting environmental field research and working alongside inspiring Indigenous educators and academics in North East Arnhem Land. In addition, Ben works at the Jane Goodall Institute Australia.
If I am totally honest, I had always heard about climate change, but never really felt I needed to do something about it. This was until I attended the Pacific Australian Emerging Leaders Summit. After meeting and hearing from incredible First Nations people and Pacific Islanders who shared their stories of how climate change has hugely affected their homes and communities, something shifted in my heart.
Islands are disappearing. People must keep moving their homes and towns inland as the ocean continues to rise and erode the coastline. Wells that have been passed down from generations are now unusable because the water has turned salty, leaving people with no access to clean water. Families must take the bones of their elders from their graves before they get washed away and rebury them.
Climate change is not something that I can ignore anymore. As a Christian I believe God has given us this earth to look after and care for. On top of that we are called to love people, and our brothers and sisters affected by climate change need our help.
I am one of those people that find it overwhelming to know what to do next, but I’m going to start with sharing what I have learnt and bringing awareness of these harsh realities to the spheres I am a part of. Thankfully there’s a lot of great people and organisations (like Tearfund) that can equip, educate and empower you.
My prayer is that we as Christians and as humans continue to fight for justice. Justice for our people and our planet.
Ariane Khalil is a production manager in the film and TV team at Hillsong Church.
Meet the other young leaders who attended the Summit with Tearfund.
Cassie Lim serves with RICE, a global movement passionate about reaching young people with the Gospel. She is a leader of RICE’s Justice Nights, which aim to initiate conversation and build awareness of topics such as racial justice, creation care and disability inclusion.
Taminka Hanscamp is a law and global studies graduate with an interest in how accessible communication facilitates justice, peace and sustainability. She studies pastoral care and disability theology.
Jasmine Eades is a Noongar woman from the South West of WA. She has a background in health and says that it was while working as a nurse that she found her passion to advocate and empower others, in particular fellow Aboriginal people.
Talicia Bolea is a Sovereign Gubbi Gubbi, Gurang, Zenadth Kes and Oceania women residing on the sovereign unceded lands of the Yirriganydji and Gimuy Wallubarra Yidinji peoples. She is a full time home schooler, First Nations business owner and artist, and active grassroots community member.
Ashley Wild is a climate scientist and international development practitioner. After completing Honours research on Disaster Risk Reduction with the Bureau of Meteorology in 2021 he's been working in Timor-Leste, first as a research assistant into youth unemployment, and then as the Forestry Certification Officer working to plant trees and facilitating farmers to access international carbon offset markets.
Rohen Snowball is studying visual communication design, and plans to complete postgraduate studies in social science and environmental humanities research in order to understand how the current climate crisis can be reversed, and a sustainable future created.
Hattie Steenholdt graduated from a teaching degree at the end of 2022. Being in Mallacoota during the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-20, where she was part of Scripture Union’s Theos beach mission team, strengthened her conviction that Christians need to do more about climate change. Read some of her reflections about that experience here.
1 Give thanks for these courageous and compassionate young leaders, and pray that God would continue to shape them for his purposes and work powerfully through their lives.
2 Pray for our First Nations brothers and sisters in the Torres Strait Islands who are experiencing the impacts of climate change on their communities. Pray that their voices would be heard as they advocate for climate justice.
3 Pray for Tearfund’s partners in the Horn of Africa where years of successive drought have contributed to the current hunger crisis. Pray that our government would provide much-needed humanitarian funding to help fight famine.Download Tearfund's climate report and read more about this landmark piece of research.