The plight of the next generation is the biggest concern for Fijian-born bishop Henry Bull who is praying that the world will listen to the climate concerns of young people.
Polynesian Bishop, the Rt Revd Henry Bull, grew up in the remote interior island of Vanua Levu – Fiji’s second island. His faith sprang from an encounter with an evangelist at his grandfather’s logging camp, where he first heard about the God of the Bible.
After being licensed as a lay evangelist, Henry was ordained to the priesthood in 2000, and was appointed as a Bishop of Vanua Levu and Taveuni, Fiji, in 2017.
“In my time as bishop,” he says, “my dream is to see each person know the love of God. Because in my life, I’ve seen that it’s only when we understand how much love God has for us… it’s only then that we can reflect that love.”
How is climate change impacting you in your part of the world?
“I’ve never experienced things in my life that I’ve experienced just in these last few years, when it comes to cyclones – category five! For the first time in my life, I had a flood all around my home. In many places people were losing everything, villages were flooding for the first time.”
He said the impact of the floods meant even the grass stopped growing due to the saltiness of the water and many homes were completely submerged.
“One of our coastal families where they have the old homestead is now underwater, they are moving further inland. I’ve visited other places where the villagers had to be resettled from seaside to interior. And that is happening right now. We were able to predict weather in the past, now we don’t know when it’s going to rain or when it’s going to be dry.”
He said land clearance and mining had made the rivers shallow, so that boats couldn’t even get up them. “People will start to find difficulties; especially fishing grounds are getting affected. And all these things are taking place now – so we are feeling the effects.”
What are people in your communities saying about what’s happening to their environment?
Bishop, Henry Bull said, “The real concern, if this carries on, is about the next generation, our children, our grandchildren. They are the real concern, how it will affect them because if this continues, it will affect their fishing grounds, especially in the rural context, their farms and all these things, with the flooding and the cyclones. I live among people who are unemployed, low-income earners, who cannot build strong homes, and their concern is wondering how they will manage if another category five hits again.”
How are you working as the Church to try and respond to some of these issues?
The last of the mission statements in our Anglican mission church is care for creation, looking after our Earth, which is so important today, and it is something that was not really talked about much before. Now, it’s a reality. We need to stop putting rubbish everywhere, throwing things out of the window, putting plastic bags in the river. This is something that we bring into our preaching and we have workshops to continue to talk, to educate people that it will affect us if we continue to do this, throwing rubbish in the river, or cutting down mangroves.”
The Diocese is also involved in clean up campaigns with young people, Bishop Henry said they had also begun planting mangroves to help secure riverbanks.
“I live on the land. And I told my children never allow anybody to come and log the land. Trees are so important to us. Let nature be nature and just utilise the land by planting vegetables, farming, so we can help ourselves and help others. That’s what we’re doing at the moment, and this is something I’m trying to encourage, to stop looking for quick money, selling land for mining and logging, but getting back to planting again.”
Bishop Henry said the Church had also been able to respond to some of the direct effects of climate change following devastating flooding across the islands.
“With support from our Anglican Communion, through Anglican Aid, Australian Relief Development Fund and Anglican missions, we were able to supply food packs to church members and the wider community. It is a way of showing the love of God and demonstrating that God really cares.” In addition to food packs, he said the churches had been able to help rebuild homes destroyed in the floods, with the support of funds from around the world. They had also helped set up new local market places to help people sell their products.
How can the Church work together across the globe to try and raise attention about climate change?
“I’m really excited about bishops meeting all over the world at the moment, which I’m new to; I’m learning from what’s happening in other parts of the world. But I believe that we have people within our Anglican Communion who are concerned and that can connect with people in other bigger governments to bring the message that this is a reality and we have to stop doing certain things that are affecting the ozone layer,” Bishop Henry said.
“My real hope is that we can stand against all these unjust structures that are happening in the world today to really support the issue of climate change. My concern is my children, my grandchildren, other children… I think we have to humble ourselves and pray and seek his face and turn away from all the greed and selfishness.”