Author: Ian Drew

Cutting The Anniversary Cake - ACoM Environment Observatories

Celebrating the 1st Anniversary of the ACoM Environment Observatories

In December 2020, representatives of ACoM, researchers of the Solomon Islands National University, government officials and “Green Apostles” from the ACoM Environment Observatory test sites came together at Red Beach, Honiara, to celebrate the 1st anniversary of the establishment of the first ACoM Environment Observatories.

Honourable guests who followed ACoM’s invitation to the event included His Excellency Dr Brian Jones, British High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands, Mr Hudson Kauhiona, Director of the Climate Change Office at the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology (MECDM) in Honiara, Mr Barnabas Tahoo, Director of the Meteorology Department at MECDM, and Dr Michael Ha’apio, Director of the Solomon Islands National University.

Cutting The Anniversary Cake - ACoM Environment Observatories
From left – Red beach Sikaiana representative, Dr. Jones, Dr. Mataki and Rev. Kelaepa cutting the anniversary cake

The festivities around the 1st anniversary of the ACoM Environment Observatories provided an ideal forum to reflect upon the origins and implementation of the observatory project. Voices from the test sites at Fanalei, Walande, Selwyn College and Red Beach were heard. The “Green Apostles”, who conduct and document measurements of temperature, rainfall, water levels and shoreline positions for the observatories, shared their thoughts on past experiences, challenges and future opportunities.

Population growth and sea level rise resulting in a lack of land for gardening were concerns highlighted by the representatives from the test sites in South Malaita. Both communities currently face challenges of relocation and are in need of support to obtain land for settlement and gardening. Representatives of Sikaiana community at Red Beach reiterated the concerns about sea level rise and mentioned the additional challenge of changing weather patterns, which impact crop harvests across the country.

Speeches by government officials and the observatory project staff confirmed that for Melanesians, climate change is not a challenge of the future, but one that is already being lived in the here and now. 

The observatory project aims to address the climate emergency by taking a two-way approach, combining knowledge transfer and local awareness raising, with the creation of scientific evidence of climate change and political engagement. Clergy and community members in Solomon Islands are equipped with the necessary skills to create trusted, scientific evidence of environmental change, which will be shared with policy makers and other stakeholders. At the same time, the observatories positively affect local adaptation in Anglican communities as knowledge about climate change and strategies for sustainable and environment-friendly livelihoods are shared amongst the community members.

The reflections by the “Green Apostles” during the festivities for the project’s 1st anniversary confirmed that the concept is working. The community representatives expressed their great appreciation for the project and highlighted that the engagement with the observatories has sparked discussions about possibilities for community-led adaptation at the test sites. For the future, the “Green Apostles” expressed their interest for greater engagement with policy makers to bring about positive change in their communities, especially with respect to relocation. 

ACoM Environment Observatories - Guests
Group photo of the guests, representatives from the four test sites and staff from ACOM head office
Un Goal 13 - Climate Action

Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impact

More information about;
Climate Change – United Nations Sustainable Development
Climate Action – Why It Matters

ACoM Communications

Naomi Hovell Maitani

Recognising & Preparing for Climate Change

Naomi Hovell Maitani

Halo Olketa! My name is Naomi Hovell Maitani and I am from South Malaita in the Solomon Islands.

Climate Change is a global issue but little has been done about it. I resided at Selwyn College National Secondary School for six years (2015-2020) and my interest in climate change issues emerged in 2016. I watched the shoreline while traveling to Honiara from Selwyn College and back and I could tell that the coastline had been eaten away by the waves and tides. This also applies to our other islands in the country. I usually spend my holidays at my home village of Oloha, South Malaita, and the roots of the trees grown at our shoreline have also been eaten away by the waves and tides. It is my hope that the understanding about climate change, its impact and human adaptation to climate change will reach our rural areas. That is to prepare them and to keep them alert and safe.

I met my friend Marie Schlenker in late 2019 when the ACoM Environment Observatory began. We installed a rain gauge, a thermometer, shoreline poles and conducted GPS measurements of shoreline and vegetation positions on the Selwyn College shoreline. When Marie returned to the UK, I continued to help Freda with the shoreline and vegetation recordings. So much has been learnt from the observatory, but there are also many challenges ahead. The observatory gives us the understanding that we need to keep records on weather and assess the shoreline closely to make predictions on sea level rise, weather patterns, hazards and disasters and to create adaptation and mitigation strategies now and for the future. As our islands are mainly low-lying islands and atoll islands, we are highly affected by climate change. Like other Pacific Islands, we need to prepare.

Tankio Paina.

Un Goal 13 - Climate Action

Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impact

More information about;
Climate Change – United Nations Sustainable Development
Climate Action – Why It Matters

Central Solomons 9th Diocesan Synod

ACoM Dioceses – April 2021 Update

The 9th Diocesan Synod of the Diocese of Central Solomons (DOCS) was held at Polomuhu village from 6th to 8th April, with the theme ‘Evangelisms in Servanthood, Discipleship to Nourish & the Faithful in the Church of God’.

Around 50 members attended comprising of clergy, lay leaders, members of the Religious Orders serving in DOCS and youth representatives.

  • Central Solomons 9th Diocesan Synod
  • Central Solomons 9th Diocesan Synod
  • Central Solomons 9th Diocesan Synod

This was also the final synod for the Rt Rev Ben Seka as the Bishop of the Diocese, who will officially retire towards the end of this year.

Rt Rev Ben Seka, Bishop of the Diocese of Central Solomons
Rt Rev Ben Seka, Bishop of the Diocese of Central Solomons

Also in April the Diocese of Central Melanesia (DOCM) held their Synod at St Alban’s Parish, Bishopsdale, with the theme ‘Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch’.

  • Central Melanesia 20th Diocesan Synod
  • Central Melanesia 20th Diocesan Synod
  • Central Melanesia 20th Diocesan Synod
  • Central Melanesia 20th Diocesan Synod
  • Central Melanesia 20th Diocesan Synod
  • Central Melanesia 20th Diocesan Synod
  • Central Melanesia 20th Diocesan Synod

Southern Region Youth members from St Alban’s Parish, Bishopsdale performed the welcome for the 20th Diocesan Synod.

Following the Synod this reflection was released by St Barnabas Cathedral

Reflection from St Barnabas cathedral, Honiara

ACoM Communications


AROUND 60 participants comprising of Priests, Catechists and lay Church leaders benefited from an Evangelism and Intentional Discipleship workshop and training in the Diocese of Ysabel in early April. The four day workshop and training was held at the Church of the Resurrection, Loval District, Nukufero, Russell Islands, Laweala region.

Diocese of Ysabel Evangelism and Intentional Discipleship
Diocese of Ysabel Evangelism and Intentional Discipleship – Workshop Participants and Facilitators

The overall aims and objectives of the Decade of Evangelism and International Discipleship program are: 

  • Members of ACoM should have a fresh understanding of the crucial importance of evangelism and renewal at the heart of our faith and ministry within the Anglican Church in Melanesia.
  • Members of ACoM should know that we are called to serve God in evangelism and discipleship and to offer ourselves through exercising our spiritual gifts for the building up of God’s church and advancing his kingdom in Melanesia.
  • Members of ACoM should understand the nature and purpose of evangelism and renewal in the context of Melanesia and in the light of biblical models of evangelism and ministry and visualise how these can be translated into addressing the social issues affecting Christians in Melanesia today.
  • Members of ACoM should understand the different approaches, principles and methods to be used to renew and mature Christians in their faith and relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ, and be ready to respond to the call by the church to engage in the work of evangelism and discipleship.

The Diocese of Ysabel has four regions; LAWEALA Region with four Parishes and four Districts; JAMAKO Region with two Parishes and four Districts; TUVANO Region with eight Districts and GAOMA Region with six Districts. The Diocese covers the islands of Ysabel, Russell, Western and Choiseul provinces. 

Fr. Norman Hudson

Patteson's Cross, Nukapu

Remembering Patteson – Father Brian Macdonald-Milne

Honorary Archivist, The Melanesian Mission UK and Honorary Canon of St Barnabas’ Cathedral, Honiara, Solomon Islands, Father Brian Macdonald-Milne writes how Patteson has influenced his entire life.

Patteson's Cross, Nukapu
Patteson’s Cross, Nukapu

I was born before the Second World War, during which I became a choir boy at St Barnabas Church in Sutton, Surrey. One of my hobbies, like many boys in those days, was collecting stamps. We had very little pocket money, but stamps could be acquired in many ways, either by asking people for ones they received on their mail or using one’s small amount of pocket money to buy what one could afford. When I was about thirteen, I visited Trinity Road in Tooting, South London, as I knew that there were two places which would interest me – a stamp shop and an aquarium shop. As I passed the stamp shop, something caught my eye in the window — it was the first stamp issue for the Pitcairn Islands, a British colony in Polynesia. On closer examination, I realized that the set of stamps told the story of the mutiny on the ‘Bounty’, and I went in and bought the set.

I have always been interested in history, and the subject of the stamps set me doing some reading about the Bounty mutineers, and how they fled with some Tahitians to the uninhabited isolated Pitcairn Island to escape punishment. Their descendants later moved to Norfolk Island, having outgrown the small island of Pitcairn, where they had become Anglican Christians and been given a priest by the Bishop of London. The Reverend Mr. Nobbs moved with them to Norfolk Island, south of Melanesia, after it had ceased to be a British penal colony. From my reading I learnt that the Bishop of Melanesia, John Coleridge Patteson, had set up a school for Melanesians on Norfolk Island in 1866/7 and had also ministered to the Pitcairners there when they needed a bishop. I became interested in and inspired by this man. I asked my school chaplain if he had any books about the Church in the Pacific so that I could get a wider picture of the Churches’ work there. He said ‘I have not been asked that before. Are you hoping to go there?’ I had not considered going anywhere at that time — I was just fourteen and being prepared by him for confirmation! I replied however that it might be a good idea. He then said, ‘ Would you go as a layman or as a priest?’ That question changed my life. We had no priests in my family. Our family business in London SW19 was an engineering firm, established by my father, and I was his elder son. However, I thought and prayed and came to believe that this was a call from God, not only to the priesthood but to the Pacific. Eventually my family came to accept this totally unexpected call.

Two missionary dioceses were then associated with the New Zealand Anglican Church — Polynesia and Melanesia. I was interested in both, and even started a branch of the Polynesia Diocesan Association at Croydon Parish Church, now Croydon Minster, which I ran for a while. However, I decided that I ought to make up my mind where I should offer to serve. It was Bishop Patteson who provided the answer. I really wanted to follow in his footsteps, and also to follow — as far as I could — his example. As a teenager, I therefore contacted the Melanesian Mission office in London, and was put on their list of possible future missionaries. I left for Melanesia by ship in 1964, having been ordained as a priest in 1961. On the way from Sydney to Honiara in the Solomons by ship, we called at Norfolk Island and I was able to visit the Patteson Memorial Chapel there.

St Barnabas Chapel, Norfolk Island
St Barnabas Chapel, Norfolk Island

Bishop Patteson has guided me in how I have tried, by the grace of God, to fulfil my ministry in and for the Anglican Church of Melanesia. Like him, I taught Melanesians and prepared some of them for ordained ministry and evangelistic work. I used Melanesian languages in my work, I lived in a Melanesian way, sometimes sharing my home with Melanesians, and eventually I was adopted into a Melanesian family. I was prepared to stay in the islands — if necessary as a single man — for as long as I was wanted. I therefore owe a great debt to the man who has so deeply affected my life from early days, and whose life and martyrdom I have researched and written about. In many ways, he is still an inspiration and encouragement to me today. Thanks be to God for the humble, saintly, talented, and devoted servant of God and of Melanesia, John Coleridge Patteson.

Collect for Bishop John Coleridge Patteson

God of all tribes and peoples and tongues,
who called your servant John Coleridge Patteson
to witness in life and death to the gospel of Christ
amongst the peoples of Melanesia:
grant us to hear your call to service
and to respond trustfully and joyfully
to Jesus Christ our redeemer,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever

Amen

Fr Brian MacDonald Milne

Brian MacDonald Milne
Selwyn College Environment Observatory Student Training

Environment Observatories – April 2021 Update

ACoM’s Environment Observatories programme is now in its second year. Lessons learnt from the four test sites are being reviewed, and new sites being identified for an expansion of the programme.

Selwyn College Environment Observatory Student Training

On the first anniversary of the programme, back in December, participants gathered to share their experiences, challenges and successes. You can read more here on the programme’s new website Anglican Church of Melanesia Environment Observatory.

Just after Easter Form 1 students at Selwyn College successfully completed the ACoM Environment Observatory Short Training facilitated by Friian Quai.

Students learnt how to collect data on environmental change in their local environment, including daily measurements of temperature, rainfall, and water levels, as well as observations of long-term shoreline variability.

In the future, student groups at Selwyn College will apply the skills they learnt during the training course to monitor the environment around the school and contribute to increasing our understanding of climate change and its related issues in Solomon Islands.

Selwyn College Environment Observatory Student Monitoring

ACoM is currently seeking funding to roll out the programme to the most environmentally at-risk parishes in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Please pray that funding comes forward for this important programme.

Melanesian Brotherhood Martyr Graves

Melanesian Brotherhood – April 2021 Update

On the 24th and 25th of April the Melanesian Brotherhood celebrated the feast of the seven martyred Brothers and St Mark’s Day. These two days were marked with the celebration of eucharist, feasting and fellowship with companions, supporters and friends throughout the three regions of the Melanesian Brotherhood in Solomon Islands, PNG and Vanuatu.

On 24th April the Brothers remember the death of the seven brothers who were killed on the Weathercoast of Guadalcanal in 2003. In history it is remembered as one of the darkest events, but also the day of victory for the nation of the Solomon Islands. Their death was not a defeat, but an event which brought resurrection and light, as peace was regained for the people of Solomon Islands (due to the intervention of a peacekeeping forces from across the Pacific – RAMSI). Happy are those who work for peace for theirs is the kingdom of God.

Melanesian Brotherhood Novices
Novices Admitted

On 25th April, St Mark’s Day the chapel at Tabalia celebrates its Patron. It is also the day in which the aspirants are admitted into novitiate and the senior novices to become professed brothers. This year, the seven sections within the region admitted eight novices each, which gives a total of 56 first year novices within Solomon Islands region.

Melanesian Brotherhood Admitted Brothers
Newly Admitted Brothers
Melanesian Brotherhood Brother Martin
Brother Martin

At Tabalia the central headquarters of the Melanesian there were thousands of companions, relatives, friends and supporters of the Brotherhood, who comes from every corner to have fellowship with the Brothers for the weekend. Some even there for a whole week. During the evensong on 24th of April, they witness the admission of eight aspirant and the ordination of Br. Martin Luza to the office of the diaconate. Br. Matrin comes from Russel Islands in the diocese of Isabel. On St Mark’s (25th April), the day began with the admission of three novices as professed Brothers by the Vicar General of the diocese of Central Melanesia The Rt Rev Alfred Hou.

At Fox Section Headquarter Poronahe, in the Diocese of Hanuato’o, the activity on Sunday went on till late in the evening. People travelled from near and far from the corners of Makira Island, and even from the outer islands of Santa Ana and Ulawa. It was a day of celebration and fellowship commented one of the teachers at Waimapuru NSS.

The Melanesian Brotherhood through these events pulls people from every corner, to come and have fellowship together. With no attractive material riches, but yet it attracted people to its event. The only gift the MBH can offer is the value of unity, peace and fellowship. So, in remembering the festivity of the seven martyred brothers, St Mark’s Day and the admission and ordination of these our MBH Brothers, let us all join our hands and be the witness of Christ in the World.

Melanesian Brotherhood Feasting At Tabalia
Feasting At Tabalia

The Brotherhood renders our thanks to the companions, the Anglican Church of Melanesia, the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea, IFI in Philippines, the churches in Australia and New Zealand, the MMUK and companions in UK, friends, supporters and all who support the MBH in kindness.

Revd Br. Nelson, MBH

Revd Brother Nelson

Alphonse Garimae adds: “Thank you to the Anglican Church of Melanesia, friends, supporters and Companions for your trust and confidence for the financial support to MBH which has enabled Br. Nestor Nacionales to complete his studies and graduated on 16 April 2021. We hope he will serve Palawan Diocese in the years to come. We pray for more young men to join the Brotherhood in Palawan.”

Melanesian Brotherhood Brother Nestor
Melanesian Brotherhood Brother Nestor
COVID Awareness Sessions

COVID-19 – A Dress Rehearsal For Climate Change

COVID Awareness Sessions

“COVID-19 is not only a wake-up call, it is a dress rehearsal for the world of challenges to come.”, stated UN Secretary-General António Guterres during his address to the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2020.

According to health and biodiversity experts around the world, the current COVID-19 pandemic is deeply connected to the climate crisis and our continued venture into spaces previously occupied by nature to obtain new resources and farmland. In the 2015 report of the Rockefeller Foundation – Lancet Commission on planetary health, scientists observed:

“Health effects from changes to the environment including climatic change, ocean acidification, land degradation, water scarcity, overexploitation of fisheries, and biodiversity loss pose serious challenges to the global health gains of the past several decades and are likely to become increasingly dominant during the second half of this century and beyond. These striking trends are driven by highly inequitable, inefficient, and unsustainable patterns of resource consumption and technological development, together with population growth.”

We have reached a new era: the Anthropocene. An era in which humans shape the surface of our planet and, thereby, the fate of future generations.

UN statistics show that each year we destroy 10 million hectares of forest on our planet, mainly for gaining access to new farmland to feed growing populations worldwide. According to the World Wildlife Fund’s 2020 Living Planet Report, populations of nearly 21,000 species of mammals, fish, birds and amphibians declined by an average of 68 % globally between 1970 and 2016. Burning of fossil fuels and deforestation resulted in increases in the concentration of carbon in the Earth’s atmosphere by 47 % since the beginning of the Industrial Age, and by 11 % since the year 2000, resulting in global warming, changing weather patterns and more frequent extreme events. (Read more about SDG 13,14 and 15 at https://sdgs.un.org/goals)

But what we often seem to ignore is that by destroying our planet, we are also putting us humans at risk. The World Health Organisation estimates that between 2030 and 2050, climate change will kill an additional quarter of million people a year through the spread of infectious diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever. Increasing interactions between animals and humans as we venture into the last truly wild spaces on Earth will facilitate the spread of new strings of diseases, such as COVID-19 and Ebola, and an increasing risk of flooding in a changing climate will likely bring more outbreaks of waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid.

COVID-19 is a crisis of our own making and, with climate change and resource extraction advancing, there is more to come in the future.

Solomon Islands, Logging
Unregulated logging in Melanesia causes loss of habitat and potentially species, flooding and human rights issues

The good news is: there is hope. The response to the pandemic has shown that people all across the globe have been willing to significantly alter their lives and work in partnership in order to tackle the COVID-19 crisis. Every one of us has an enormous capacity to adapt to new circumstances.

“The environment is God’s gift to everyone. And we have a responsibility towards each other to protect it. We cannot think of ourselves as isolated from others or from creation.”, is the official view of the Church of England on stewardship for the environment.

By taking little steps, all of us can help to create a more sustainable and more equitable world, which our friends in Melanesia and our future generations in this country can strive for.

Here are 8 actions that we can take:

  1. Adjust your diet: Eat smaller or fewer portions of meat, particularly red meat, which has the largest environmental impact, and reduce dairy products or use non-dairy alternatives instead. Try to choose fresh, seasonal produce that is grown locally to help reduce the carbon emissions from transportation, preservation and prolonged refrigeration.
  2. Consume and waste less: Avoid food waste. Try to repair and reuse items and don’t buy more than you need. Consider second-hand options or high quality items, which will last a long time. Give unwanted items a new life by donating them to charity, selling them on or giving them away for free in your neighbourhood. Put your purchasing power to good use by choosing ethical brands.
  3.  Leave the car at home: Walk or cycle as much as possible – and enjoy the exercise and the money saved. For longer journeys, use public transport, or try car sharing schemes. If driving is unavoidable, investigate switching your diesel or petrol car for an electric or hybrid model. 
  4. Cut back on flying:  Choose nearby holiday destinations and take public transport where you can or use car sharing schemes. If you need to fly for work, consider using video conferencing instead. When flying is unavoidable, pay a little extra for carbon offsetting and fly economy – on average, a business class passenger has a carbon footprint which is three times higher than someone’s in economy.
  5. Save energy: Turn off lights and appliances when you don’t need them. Replace light bulbs with LEDs or other low-energy lights. Make simple changes to how you use hot water, like buying a water-efficient shower head. Consider switching energy supply to a green tariff, which is a great way to invest in renewable energy sources – and could save money on bills.
  6. Respect and protect green spaces: If you have your own outdoor space, don’t replace the grass with paving or artificial turf. Plant trees and create your own green space. The Woodland Trust has tools and resources to support you. Help to protect and conserve green spaces like local parks, ponds or community gardens. Organisations like Fields In Trust and the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces have advice and resources on how you can get involved in areas local to you. 
  7. Invest your money responsibly: Find out where your money goes. Voice your concerns about ethical investment by writing or talking to your bank or pension provider, and ask if you can opt out of funds investing in fossil fuels. You can also investigate ‘ethical banking’.
  8. Make your voice heard by those in power: Tell your Member of Parliament, local councillors and city mayors that you think action on climate change is important. You can also get your local church involved in engaging with your MP about climate change. Hope for the Future can help you with training and resources.

Marie Schlenker

Walande, School Children

Fifth mark of mission – to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth

New Bishop - Diocese of Hanuato’o

New Bishop of Hanuato’o

Over 2,000 people witnessed the consecrated and installment of the Reverend Arthur Stanley Abui as the fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Hanuato’o (DoH), at Saint Peters Cathedral, Kirakira on Sunday 21st March.

The Most Reverend Leonard Dawea, Archbishop of ACoM officiated the ceremony, assisted by the Senior Bishop and Bishop of the Diocese of Malaita the Rt Rev Sam Sahu, the Assistant Bishop of Malaita the Rt Rev Rickson Maomaoru, Bishop of the Diocese of Ysabel the Rt Rev Ellison Quity, Bishop of the Diocese of Temotu the Rt Rev. Willie Tungale, Bishop of the Diocese of Guadalcanal the Rt Rev Benedict Loe and Retired Bishop the Rt Rev Alfred Karibongi.

Immediately after he was consecrated, the Vicar General of the DoH Rev. Clayton Maha installed the Rt Rev Arthur Abui in the episcopal chair of the Diocesan Cathedral, as a sign of his role and responsibility as chief shepherd of the diocese.

  • New Bishop - Diocese of Hanuato’o
  • New Bishop - Diocese of Hanuato’o

“I have no great intention to come on board with new ideas and developments. I would rather continue on with the vision and mission statement of the diocese passed by the 10th diocesan synod in December 2020,” the newly consecrated Bishop said in his inaugural address in the church.

“Our vision statement puts an emphasis on to hear, live and joyfully proclaim the gospel of Christ to our people. Our mission statement focuses on our baptismal ministries to build up the body of Christ, which is the church. This is trying to achieve our vision statement. Importantly to recognise and serve those who are in need in our society”, he added.

Taken from the Diocesan Vision and Mission statements, the Rt Rev. Arthur Abui said his theme for this year 2021 is “HANUA TO HANUA FOR CHRIST”, meaning the gospel of Christ should begin at home.

“The theme should germinate at home, grow at home, matured at home before it goes out to other people, communities and society. Acts of the Apostle 1.8 states, be my witnesses beginning in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the end of the World.” Bishop Abui added.

“I am confident the diocese will continue to progress through your capable leadership with the support of your clergies.” The Most Rev. Leonard Dawea told Bishop Abui in his speech during the feasting.

“There is no school for the bishopric; but by working with and listening to the people; you will learn most how to be a bishop”, the Archbishop added.

The Archbishop calls on the Diocese to support the Bishop and on all members of the church to continue to pray for the Rt Rev Arthur Stanley Abui and his family as he begins this very important role in the Diocese of Hanuato’o and in the Anglican Church of Melanesia.

New Bishop - Diocese of Hanuato’o

ACoM Communications

Society of St Francis, Logging and the UN conference

Logging In Melanesia – A Call To Action

In March over 30 supporters gathered online to hear about the Society of Francis’ mission in the Solomon Islands to highlight the wider implications and impacts of illegal, unregulated and unsustainable logging. Joining us the day after their address to the United Nations, Brs Worrick and Lent in Honiara and Minister General Christopher John in Australia, shared with us their concerns for the forests and people of Melanesia –

The forests of the Solomon Islands have sustained life in all its forms over countless generations. But now trees are being felled, dragged down from the mountain areas, and exported as unprocessed round logs. The logging companies, mostly Malaysian, often bribe politicians and local representatives to obtain logging licenses. Customary landowners receive some payment for their logs, but after the logging company has left there is nothing but bare earth. The work of the loggers is not monitored by government and often the terms of the logging licence are not respected. The effects are widespread.

Watch the Brothers’ UN address;

And find out more about the Brothers’ mission; Logging & the Abuse of Human Rights.

The Brothers have asked us to pray for their work and the three main recommendations they want the Solomon Islands Government to address:

  1. Protect human rights against abuses by logging companies; ensure effective remedies for victims; and bring the perpetrators to justice. 
  2. Ensure that the right to free, prior and informed consent be fully respected and implemented through all stages of the logging process, in accordance with international human rights standards.
  3. Adopt a coherent and comprehensive mitigation and adaptation climate policy and actions based on human rights norms and principles.

Following the Brothers’ talk there was presentation on what our response might be towards climate and environmental justice, including shopping ethically – checking for sustainable forestry certification, engaging with our own politicians, government in the run up to COP26, becoming an eco-church and attending one of the Franciscan’s climate events at Hilfield or online.

Society of St Francis, Logging and the UN conference, call to action

If you would like to support the Brothers’ mission, or to watch the Call to Action conference recording, please contact MMUK.

Solomon Islands, Logging
Solomon Islands, Logging

Logging & the Abuse of Human Rights

Brothers from the Society of St Francis in the Solomon Islands are making a stand against illegal, unregistered and unsustainable logging in their country, via petitions to the United Nations. SSF Minister General Br Christopher John, writes about this important mission.

Solomon Islands, Logging

The forests of the Solomon Islands have sustained life in all its forms over countless generations. But now trees are being felled, dragged down from the mountain areas, and exported as unprocessed round logs. The logging companies, mostly Malaysian, often bribe politicians and local representatives to obtain logging licenses. Customary landowners receive some payment for their logs, but after the logging company has left there is nothing but bare earth. The work of the loggers is not monitored by government and often the terms of the logging licence are not respected. The effects are widespread. Destruction of environment, pollution of waterways, flash flooding which sweeps debris downstream where it blocks culverts and bridges, causing them to be washed away, and muddy water which pollutes fishing areas and damages the reefs which have a vital role in absorbing the energy of incoming waves.  The damage is also social, cultural and spiritual. There are recorded incidents of prostitution associated with loggers, including trafficking in underage females. An excess of cash can also lead to increased alcohol consumption and gender-based violence. Such logging destroys the traditional reliance on forests to provide shelter for food crops, a place to hunt wild animals, a source of timber, vines and leaves for building houses and canoes, as well as the environment for plants used for medicinal purposes. 

The Society of St Francis is one of the four Anglican religious communities in Solomon Islands. Our Brothers there know well the destructive effects of logging. They see it in the villages and when they are travelling out on mission. On our own we are too small to do much, but through our membership of Franciscans International (the voice of Franciscans at the United Nations) we are taking part in the Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights being held in Geneva and online. Solomon Islands is one of the nations whose recognition of human rights is being examined at the UN Human Rights Council. On March 25 at the “Pre-Sessions” Br Lent gave the following address;

STATEMENT FOR UPR PRE-SESSION SOLOMON ISLANDS

Thank you to UPR Info for providing me the opportunity to speak. My name is Lent Fugui, a Franciscan Anglican brother from Solomon Islands.

I present this statement on behalf of a coalition of Franciscans and Dominican NGOs.

In the previous UPR cycle, several states made statements and recommendations on the issue of natural resources exploitation as well as climate change. 

Our focus for this presentation is the impact of logging activities in Solomon Islands on human rights.

In the activities of natural resources exploitation in my country, in particular logging activities in the customary land, there is a lack of participation and consent of local communities affected by logging plans and operations. In some cases, the environmental and human rights issue we raised during Timber Rights Hearings in the process are not taken into consideration by the Provincial Government.

In Laovavasa, Guadalcanal Island, we observed that logging activities have left behind great devastation. When the loggers harvest largest trees, they end-up destroying other small trees. The consequences of the destruction of forest and land are considered very severe by the community, as soils are now eroding; water sources dry up; rainfall is not dispersed efficiently, flash floods happen more regularly, as well as more droughts and landslides.

The diversion of the economy towards logging has impacted the traditional ways of life. In my country, fishery is a key source of livelihood. However, fish resources have declined because of sedimentation of rivers and reefs. This is a result of runoff from upstream cutting areas, and log-pond and wharf construction.

In February-March 2020, major floods in the Guadalcanal Province impacted our school, the Selwyn College of the Church of Melanesia, located in a coastal area surrounded by forest. The flood affected access to safe drinking water, sanitary facilities, food gardens of the school, as well as the rural health centre next to the school. As the septic tanks were flooded, there were serious concerns regarding the health impacts. Floods are believed to be exacerbated by logging activities in the upstream area around the school compound.

There have been several allegations of sexual violence related to the presence of logging companies and their foreign workers.  A report on the gendered effects of corporate logging in Malaita Islands found that women in the region experienced sexual exploitation.

Women are also disproportionately affected by logging and mining activities, in particular in the cases where women have a limited role in negotiations on land. Women have often been neglected in decision-making process.

In 2018, five environmental activists, known as Nende Five, were imprisoned for opposing the logging activities in the primary forest on Nende in Santo-Cruz Island in Temotu Province. While three of the activists were acquitted, one activist, is facing life imprisonment for arson and another was convicted of larceny and unlawful damage; their lawyer stated that their confessions were given under duress.

We are very much concerned on the impact of logging activities on climate change. Despite its commitment to mitigate climate change, the Government of Solomon Islands has not submitted its revised Nationally Determined Contribution. The forest in Solomon Islands has been contributing to the world’s carbon sink. However, if the deforestation continues, the impact of logging activities will be very significant for the environment, not only for Solomon Islands but also the global efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

We would like to propose the following recommendations to the Government of Solomon Islands.

The government should protect human rights against abuses and environmental degradation by logging companies and ensure effective remedies when abuses occured. It should also take appropriate legislative and administrative measures to ensure that the use and exploitation of natural resources do not adversely affect the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights as well as to ensure that, through all stages of the logging process, the rights to participation and information of affected communities are fully respected, in accordance with international standards.

The government should undertake awareness-raising programs on the environmental, social and human rights impacts of logging and on the rights and protections people shall enjoy, including programs targeting women and youths and take appropriate legislative and administrative measures to ensure that the use of exploitation of natural resources do not infringe the rights of local communities to dispose freely of their lands, territory, and natural resources, in accordance with international standards.

It is important to guarantee the effective protection of people at risk because they defend their rights or the rights of communities, the land or the environment in the context of logging projects. The government should ensure that all violations committed against defenders are thoroughly and impartially investigated and that victims are provided with effective remedies.

The government should ensure effective protection against violence against women and children, including sexual abuse and exploitation and domestic violence, with a focus on communities affected by logging activities.

Finally, the government should ensure access to sufficient safe drinking water and adequate sanitation for the entire population, including those who are affected by, or even active in, logging activities, as well as to adopt a coherent and comprehensive mitigation and adaptation climate policy and actions based on human rights norms and principles.

Thank you. Br Lent

Solomon Islands, Logging

Highlighting this concern at the UN is just the beginning of what is planned to be a campaign calling on different organisations to work in different ways according to their capacity. At an international level, tracking where the finished timber products are sold; regionally, finding allies and sources of information in small nations which have successfully stood up to the pressure of logging interests; nationally and provincially within the Solomons, finding effective ways of lobbying politicians and helping them find solutions to the problems of logging; and at village level, the members of religious orders and others working to educate people and give them strategies to resist the pressure of logging interests.

SSF Minister General Br Christopher John