Tiibea Baure fears for her mom and dad. More than anything, she wants them to be saved. But despite her pleas and prayers, they refuse to believe.
|Tiibea Baure of Kiribati|
Tiibea’s parents scoff at all warnings about the changing climate, whether from scientists or from their own government. They are like many among the older generation, who refuse to believe the research about the future of their homeland, the Pacific Island nation of Kiribati. The 33 low-lying islands that 90,000 Kiribatians call home are increasingly succumbing to the rising sea levels, and the future is bleak.
“It’s not nice to be planning the demise of your country,” admits Kiribati’s president, Anote Tong. “Nobody wants to do that. Who wants to lose his national identity? Nobody wants to do that. But can you give me any other option, given the rising tide? No, you cannot.”
|Rising sea levels overwhelming Kiribati’s villages|
Why is he so pessimistic? Because Kiribati’s islands are giving way to the rising seas today, and are projected to be completely inundated by the end of the century. Already, the islands’ fresh water is turning salty, and crops are being destroyed by encroaching salt water. Many Kiribatians are being trained for careers in Australia, so that they will have somewhere to go when this nation – which spans an area larger than the state of Alaska – is no longer habitable.
But Tiibea’s parents don’t believe. Her mom, Batie Tebwa and her dad, Baure Karakaua just laugh at her worries. “When the sea coming, God will come under our island and raise it up a bit higher,” laughs her dad. “So why’s she so worried about it? God keep raising our island higher and higher, so we’re not worried!’ “
|Mom and Dad laugh at Tiibea’s warnings, and ignore presidential concerns.|
Many of Kiribati’s politicians agree with him (sound familiar?). Almost all Kiribatians belong to a church, and many are suspicious of science. The former president, Teburoro Tito, recalls that God promised Noah never again to destroy the world. “Saying we’re going to be under the water, that I don’t believe,” Tito says. “Because people belong to God, and God is not so silly to allow people to perish just like that.”
|This used to be the village of Tebunginako|
But the unbelief of the older generation does not appear to be stopping the forces of nature. The village of Tebunginako is a striking example. In the late 1970s, the tides began encroaching into the village, home to over 400 people. Despite their frantic efforts to build sea walls, the waters kept advancing. Now, the site where the village’s central meeting hall once stood is 100 feet offshore. And the population has dwindled to one quarter of its earlier size.
This is the destiny Tiibea fears for her family. She’s training in Brisbane, Australia, to be a nurse. Perhaps, she tells herself, when the rising seas drive her unbelieving parents away from their ancestral home, she’ll be able to take care of them in this new land. Ironically, her Australian city of refuge suffered floods of biblical proportions last month which destroyed 25,000 homes and 5,000 businesses, all due to climatic factors predicted for Australia by climatologists.
Kiribati could easily just be a fictional parable for the United States: scientists and government agencies sounding the alarm; young people voicing particular concern; old folks and politicians refusing to take the warnings seriously; and religious people imagining that God won’t permit them to suffer the consequences of environmental degradation.
But the sacred scripture of Christians and Jews says no such thing about God. In fact, the God of grace issues severe warnings to mankind, if it should disregard the Sabbath Laws requiring people to care for the creation:
“If in spite of this you still do not listen to me, then … your land will be laid waste, and your cities will lie in ruins. Then the land will enjoy its Sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its Sabbaths. All the time that it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not have during the Sabbaths you lived in it.” (Leviticus 26: 27-39)
The God of the Christian faith undeniably loves people, but He loves them in the context of loving the entire Earth that He made.
And Kiribati is no parable. It’s a real place where belief, faith and salvation all hang in the balance. The rising seas are coming.
Will Tiibea’s parents be saved?
Thanks for reading, and may God bless you.