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Cardinal Ribat: Let's protect our islands

Pope Francis Cardinal Ribat
Pope Francis and Cardinal Ribat, who asks: "“Where will we be after all these islands are gone?”

| Vatican News

THE VATICAN - As the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region ended recently, Cardinal John Ribat of Papua New Guinea said he could identify with most of the topics that were discussed.

Cardinal Ribat, the Archbishop of Port Moresby, said that there are many similarities between Papua New Guinea and the Amazon region and many topics resonated with what is happening in PNG.

“They (people of the Amazon) are faced with a development that is coming in, taking their land, facing a situation where they are not recognised and sometimes not respected and not being seen as part of that development,” Cardinal Ribat said.

When this happens, he said, people sometimes have no voice apart from that of the Church.

Cardinal Ribat came away from the Synod more convinced than ever that the world needs to pay attention to indigenous people and their cultures wherever they are situated.

He pointed out that “people look to the Church as their only hope for recognition and support.”

For Cardinal Ribat, the Synod was inspiring not only for the people of the Amazon region but for other parts of the world such as the Pacific Islands.

“In the Pacific and in PNG many islands are becoming small, we are surrounded by the sea, and we are confounded by what is happening around us during storms and the rising sea level,” he said.

“This kind of situation risks our life and makes us ask questions.

“Where will we be after all these islands are gone?” the Cardinal wondered.

He said that islands in the Pacific do not have vast areas of land as other continents, and that is why the little is so precious.

“The land is life to the people, the land is everything, so when you take it away, you deprive people of their lives,” Cardinal Ribat said.

“No individual owns the land; the land belongs to the whole community, so when you take it away, the whole community is upset, the whole community reacts, and the whole community is affected.”

The Cardinal explained that what is needed the most is to listen to the people and prioritise their needs.

“The real call here is to listen, to hear what the people are saying, as they are crying,” he said.

Cardinal Ribat said, in keeping with Catholic social teaching, the Church in PNG will continue to speak out in defence of the rights of the poor and vulnerable.

“We don’t have weapons; our weapon is the faith.

“Our faith is our hope in the Lord, and our hope is that there should be due justice for the people.”

The Cardinal referred to Pope Francis’ document, Laudato Si, which he said encourages him and the people of PNG to care for Mother Earth and the environment.

Talking about the aftermath of the Amazon Synod, Cardinal Ribat appealed to governments to listen to the voice of the Church.

In particular, he called upon developed nations to minimise the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere.

"As I go back home, I will go and encourage our people to understand that in collaboration with our people of the Amazon region, we are facing the same situation.

“What is happening to them is also our story.

“I will ask the people in the Pacific that we pray and work together to improve our way of life.

“I am ready to speak to our political leaders so that we can move PNG forward,” Cardinal Ribat said.


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