What do Australia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, New Zealand, Tonga and other Pacific islands have in common? Your local Caritas organizations have come together to form the joint Caritas-Oceania network in order to work together on issues such as climate change, nature conservation, emergency aid, development issues and peacemaking on a larger scale.
Christine Seuss and Linda Bordoni – Vatican City
This week the annual forum of the Caritas organizations came to an end. Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi of Tonga is the new President of Caritas Oceania. In the conversation he reports on the priorities, but also the difficulties that the various Caritas associations have in common.
“Conservation of nature remains our priority, because the protection of the common house is really always a big problem for us. One of our greatest treasures is the ocean and natural disasters and climate change affect many people here, ”reports Mafi, the first cardinal of the island state of Tonga in Oceania since 2015.
Seven Caritas associations are currently united in Caritas Oceania, which also means that the concerns of many different ethnic groups have to be brought under one roof. But it is precisely these differences in the shared realities of life that also mean wealth, says the cardinal, who emphasizes more similarities anyway:
“We all live in this great ocean, the Pacific. The Christian faith also creates unity, because a large part of the inhabitants of this living space are Christians, a third about Catholics. And it is always a special time when we come together as a Caritas family once a year for our Caritas Forum. “
At the forum, the Caritas delegates then discuss how they deal with similar problems in their realities – the cardinal mentions, among other things, environmental protection and the consequences of climate change. “So the common commitment despite our differences, and that is one of the main goals of our forum”. This year, among other things, the Caritas associations agreed on a common advocay strategy, with a focus on environmental protection, women and youth, reports Cardinal Mafi.
“That means solidarity despite the separation by the ocean. We’re all separated by this vast ocean, so we really need to find ways to work together to implement these priorities. “
Inspiration durch Brothers all
The cardinal envisions fraternal solidarity and cooperation in the spirit of Fratelli tutti. Because the encyclical of Pope Francis, stressed Cardinal Mafi, was very well received in his sphere of activity, despite the distance from Rome, and there is a lot of talk about it. “But our problem is, we have to translate this from English into our local languages. And that is a challenge for the local dioceses. They have good translators so that the local people here, the lay people, also have access to these texts. “
As Cardinal Mafi explains, some areas of the Malinese archipelago have up to 20 dialects side by side. Mainly, however, a mix of English and local dialects is used, while in Australia, for example, English is mainly spoken. “But it looks different in other countries. And to make texts like Fratelli tutti accessible to people, you need a good translation into the local languages. “
Not only are the languages numerous, but also the extent of the territory is enormous. From Tonga, for example, it takes four hours to fly to Sydney or Brisbane, and it takes an hour and a half to fly to its direct neighbor, Fiji, and to Samoa. New Zealand can be reached in three hours by plane: “We are far from each other, especially the Micronesian groups, tiny in the ocean …”
Coronavirus creates problems in Oceania too
Far away, but not immune to the difficulties the whole world is currently grappling with: containing the coronavirus. Because although the pandemic is relatively under control in some countries such as Tonga and others, in other countries such as Fiji, Tonga’s direct neighbor, a tough battle is currently being fought to counter the spread of the virus. “From the beginning of the pandemic, Caritas has worked with the Jesuit refugee service and other partner organizations to keep the consequences of the pandemic as low as possible,” reports the cardinal.
“And during our meeting, which we have just ended, it was very impressive to see in the presentations of the individual members how Caritas and JRS have worked together to help the most vulnerable communities in the various archipelagos, such as with hygiene kits and Water tanks for washing hands, things like that: The lockdown hit us very hard, including tourism, which is the main source of income for these many small islands. “
The cardinal also devoted one last thought to the other Caritas organizations that are active around the world: “I think we all share these difficult times with Covid-19. But with the inspiration of Fratelli tutti there is a new way of looking at our lives, loving others in a spirit of brotherhood and being kind to one another. We have to go back to the roots, to the family units and build love from there. “
(vatican news – cs)