In a radio broadcast from Suva on 22 March 1944, my grandfather Bishop WH Baddeley (the seventh Bishop of Melanesia) spoke of his time in the Solomon Islands during the Japanese occupation and of the challenges that lay ahead.
“Now the war has receded, is receding, from the Solomons: and most of my sphere of Mission activities is now free of the enemy. I hope that before many months have passed, I shall again be able to visit Rabaul and our stations on the South Coast of New Britain.”
“We have got to see this thing through. We’ve got to go on – not getting tired, not wearying of delays, difficulties, disappointments – until ‘this evil thing’ is completely overcome. We are fighting that the world may be a better, healthier, a dearer place where men and women, boys and girls may have the fullest opportunities to live full lives – with bodies that are healthy and strong, fed with good wholesome food, housed in happy, healthy surroundings, with adequate hospital and nursing facilities available for them in times of sickness: with minds that are clean and open and free, developed by education that is open to all, no matter his [sic] race or class: with freedom of opportunity to develop his [sic] spiritual life without let or hindrance…”
“[Before then] we have to rebuild villages, re-establish stations – schools, hospitals, dispensaries, training centres; we have to re-plant gardens, re-stock our sties, our byres, our chicken houses; we have to face a very changed situation – a new mental outlook brought by the war…There are difficult days ahead but we are all in this together, Britisher, Australian, American, Solomon Islander; administrator, missionary, planter, trader – all of us will continue to be in this together – for the building up of a better world.”
Last weekend I was in the Solomon Islands for the enthronement of the seventh Archbishop of Melanesia.
Archbishop Leonard Dawea was enthroned in an overflowing St Barnabas Cathedral to the sound of magnificent Melanesian harmonies and with dancing and speeches…lots of speeches.
The Solomon Islands are very different to the islands my grandfather left 72 years ago and while there is still work to be done with regards to “schools, hospitals, dispensaries and training centres”, there are also new challenges to be faced.
Climate change and rising sea levels are rapidly impacting the low-lying lands of the Solomon Islands, with crops failing and lands disappearing. Whole communities are being displaced from Islands that have been home for generations because rising sea levels make fresh water scarce and prevent traditional food crops from growing. In some places, like the island of Tauba in Lau Lagoon of the coast of Malaita the land has disappeared beneath the waves all together. I have old photos from my grandfather of Langa Langa lagoon that show far more Islands than exist today!
The Anglican Church of Melanesia is at the forefront of advocacy and action in the Solomon Islands with regards to climate change but for some communities it is already too late.
The advances of “the enemy” were eventually halted 70 years ago and the Solomon Island communities have rebuilt all that was destroyed during the Second World War. For Archbishop Leonard and the people of the Solomon Islands, and for people in communities all over the world, climate change poses a far more serious threat. If that threat is to be addressed, we need to remember that rallying call of Bishop Baddeley from all those years ago, “We’re all in this together… [and] all of us will continue to be in this together – for the building up of a better world.”
What we do does matter and as Anglicans all of us are called through the Five Marks of Mission, “To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth.”
We must all consider what we will do for “the building up of a better world.”
 Broadcast by The Right Rev’d W.H. Baddeley, DSO, MC, Bishop of Melanesia at Suva, on 22.3.1944