23 June 2023, Geneva, Switzerland: Armstrong Pitakaji of the United Church in the Solomon Islands speaks during a Pilgrimage plenary on Justice underway at the World Council of Churches central committee, which gathers in Geneva on 21-27 June 2023, for its first full meeting following the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe in 2022.


At the plenary on the third day of the 21-27 June central committee meeting, moderated by the WCC president Most Rev. Dr Rufus Okikiola Ositelu of the Church of the Lord (Prayer Fellowship) Worldwide, speakers noted the message of the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany, that lamented the persistence of "ancient forces of human suffering" that promote "injustice and discrimination" instead of "inclusion, justice and peace."

"Waterborne diseases as a result of extreme weather events mean that environmental health officers have to closely monitor the quality of water sources, checking for contaminants like E coli and coliform," said Rev. Armstrong Pitakaji, moderator of the United Church in the Solomon Islands, a member of the central committee.

Pitakaji said the Pacific islands are vulnerable to climate change. "Let us be clear we are not drowning. We are fighting.”

Seeking support

The churches in his area are seeking support for losses and for a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty as the islands are vulnerable to climate change.

"Our faith in God is the source of our resilience as Pacific climate warriors," said the island church leader.

He said that many Pacific Islanders are already taking solution-focused action, such as in the the Cook Islands, where people are going back to the foods of their ancestors, from Indigenous foodstuffs found and cultivated in the mountains, "which are improving diets and strengthening the community's capacity to withstand climate shock."

Pitakaji urged churches to encourage investment in water and sanitation that promotes healthy food systems and a transition to renewable energy, even though that can be difficult.

The central committee debate resulted from the WCC 11th Assembly's emphasis on the importance of seeking justice to attain healing, reconciliation, and peace in the world.

The talk was facilitated by Rev. Dr Rufus Okikiola Ositelu, of the Church of the Lord (Prayer Fellowship) Worldwide from Nigeria.

Rev. Dr Karen Georgia Thompson of the United Church of Christ from the United States, quoted Amos 5:24—also famously quoted by the late Rev. Dr Martin Luther King, Jr—saying, Let justice roll down like water and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."

She also cited the United Church of Christs vision statement, which reads, in part, ”united in Christ's love for a just world for all.

"I believe that is a vision we see; as Christians, we all should want to see a just world for all. The word just informs the word justice, which appears in the text from Amos, and is part of the theme for this plenary," said Thompson.

Justice in the dictionary

"The dictionary defines the word justice as based on our behaving according to what is morally right and fair," she said.

Thompson said that the world continues to change and shift.

"These days, we are called to care for more than the widows and orphans of yesterday," she noted. "The call to care for our neighbours as well as ourselves spans a range of issues with complex intersections and global effects.

"All the challenges we identified in our table conversations as part of our communities have global dimensions, and the global dimensions we name all have local manifestations."

People must be justice seekers, as justice and righteousness go together.

"We cannot say we are living the way God wants us to and not show compassion for our neighbours. The quest to seek a just world for all is perhaps at the heart of the words of Micah and Amos," Thompson said.

Ann Jacob of the United Methodist Church, who works in a hospital, said climate change is "affecting local produce" and also pushing up prices "so that explains why people tend to go for cheaper products that are sold in the shops that aren't even healthy."

She said she would like to see government policymakers help solve the problem with church encouragement.

WCC important “to proclaim healing to a broken world,” moderator urges (WCC news release, 21 June 2023)

WCC general secretary provides insights into Strategic Plan, offers vision for future (WCC news release, 21 June 2023)

Photo gallery of the WCC Central committee meeting

WCC Central committee meeting, June 2023