By Mbikoyezu John
Speaking to Paul Samasumo of Vatican News, Cardinal Ribat said that there are many similarities between Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the Amazon region.
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.” When this happens, the Archbishop of Port Moresby says, 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.
The Cardinal pointed out that, “people look to the Church as their only hope for recognition and support.”
Where will we be after all these Islands are gone?
For Cardinal Ribat, this Synod was inspiring not only for the people of the Amazon region but even for other parts of the world such as the Pacific Islands.
“In the Pacific and in Papua New Guinea 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... 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.
Cardinal Ribat says, islands in the Pacific do not have vast areas of land as other continents, and that is why the little that is there is precious.
“The land is life to the people, the land is everything, so when you take it away, you deprive people of their lives. 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. He reiterated that what was needed the most was listening to the people and prioritizing their needs. “The real call here is really to listen, to hear what the people are saying as they are crying,” he emphasized.
Our weapon is our faith
Cardinal Ribat said in keeping with Catholic Social Teaching, the Church in PNG would 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 the document, Laudato Si of Pope Francis which he says encourages him and the people of PNG to care for Mother Earth and the environment.
Appeal to developed nations to minimize amount of carbon dioxide
Talking about the aftermath of the Synod on the Amazon, Cardinal Ribat appealed to governments to listen to the voice of the Church. In particular, he called upon developed nations to minimize 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,” the Cardinal said.