The Council for World Mission (CWM) Pacific Region is organising an online prayer vigil for the people of Tonga on 28 January, Friday, 3.30pm (Fiji Time) following a devastating volcanic eruption and tsunami that destroyed miles of coastline, homes, and infrastructure. The prayer vigil will include a message by CWM General Secretary, Rev. Dr Jooseop Keum, a few reflections and prayers in different Pacific languages by member churches in Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tahiti, and Kiribati. The Pacific ecumenical community, member churches and all who wish to stand in solidarity with Tongan people are welcome to attend the event using this link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83354359809?pwd=VzZJU1BLTVpkNkNORjBWR0hVRWJWZz09
Following the recent massive eruption of Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapai, an underwater volcano of the Tongan archipelago in the southern Pacific Ocean, a tsunami was triggered, with two people drowning across the Pacific Ocean in Peru, and tidal surges around the Pacific islands and Pacific Rim countries. The scale of destruction was initially unclear as outside communication was disrupted for a few days. It has now been confirmed that at least three have died, 24 injured, and four-fifths of the population affected by the tsunami and volcanic ash. In addition to the public health risk to residents, there were fears that water sources had been polluted by the volcanic ash. Many Tongans capture fresh rainwater from their roofs to drink, hence there is an increased risk of diseases like cholera and diarrhoea.
The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs spoke about significant infrastructural damage around the main island of Tongatapu, and the Tongan government called the eruption an “unprecedented disaster”. While the exact extent of damage to crops, villages and livelihoods is unknown, all the houses were destroyed on Mango Island, and only two houses remained on Fonoifua.
The needs are many
According to Talanoa Toktok, the official publication of Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC), Tongan churches are leading relief efforts by opening their schools and buildings as evacuation centres, and have said that people will need psychological support coming to terms with the enormity of damage and loss.
Among the Pacific churches rallying around Tonga in prayer and practical support is Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ), a CWM member church, who is working collaboratively with Christian World Service and partner churches in New Zealand to assist Tongans by providing food, water and other necessities. In a statement released on 18 January, PCANZ expressed “deep concern” and its “heartfelt prayers”, and that further information about an appeal for aid will soon be available.
In responding PCC’s call for the ecumenical community to keep Tonga in their prayers and support the relief efforts, CWM Pacific is holding this online prayer vigil for our brothers and sisters in the Pacific, and we invite you to join us in intercession on 28 January, Friday, 3.30pm (Fiji Time) using this link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83354359809?pwd=VzZJU1BLTVpkNkNORjBWR0hVRWJWZz09
Meeting ID: 833 5435 9809
CWM Pacific region office will be coordinating relief support from our member churches, and member churches who wish to send financial aid can contact them for further details.
Prayer for Tonga
Amid the chaos and the uncertainty, we pray for you and we stand in solidarity with you amid a terrifying disaster.
We pray for God’s mercy on you and on the rescue workers and first responders at the scene.
We pray that God might guide the churches responding to the needs of the people as those needs change in the coming days.
We assure you that our solidarity and prayers will be ongoing as you continue to cope with the devastation of this disaster.