Greater awareness and better responses are needed when it comes to the many challenges facing people living on island nations, Pope Francis said.
Among the problems they face, he said, are “violence, terrorism, poverty, hunger and the many forms of social and economic injustice and inequality that nowadays bring harm to all, but in particular to women and children.”
Also of concern, he added, is that “many island peoples are exposed to extreme environmental and climate changes, some of which result from an unbridled exploitation of natural and human resources.”
The pope made his comments in a letter sent to an online conference titled, “Building Fraternity, Defending Justice. Challenges and Opportunities” for people living in island nations.
The conference, held May 21, was sponsored by the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the Anglican Centre of Rome. Participants included Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and President Wavel Ramkalawan of the Seychelles, who is also an Anglican priest.
Pope Francis wrote that the important ecumenical initiative offered “an opportunity for believers, government leaders and members of the broader civil society, especially the young, to address the particular challenges” faced by people living in island nations.
In addition to the social, economic and environmental injustices they face, they are also experiencing “a human and social deterioration that increasingly puts at risk the lives of the inhabitants of these island and sea territories,” the pope said.
As a result, “it is my hope that the conference will contribute to the development of practical international and regional policies aimed at meeting such challenges more effectively and strengthening the awareness of everyone’s responsibility to care for our common home.”
Creation is fragile and interconnected, he said, and “an attitude of solidarity and respect for each person, created in God’s image and likeness is all the more necessary in uniting sincere love for our brothers and sisters with an unwavering commitment to resolve the environmental and social problems affecting those living in island and maritime areas.”
The pope praised the efforts underway to strengthen fraternity and defend justice in these regions, and said he hoped the meeting would show “the important role that island peoples can play in furthering the growth of a more human and inclusive world.”