Christianity and Climate Change Adaption: Sea-level Rise and Ritualising Village Relocation in Fiji


  • Thomas Arthur John White University of Otago



Christianity, development, Fiji, climate change, migration


Development studies are ambivalent about the relationship between climate change adaption and Pacific Christianity. Biblical belief about Noah’s covenant and the End Times are understood to undermine risk perception, while church membership is seen to threaten cross-denominational cooperation, hampering adaptive capacity. Yet the communicative reach and charismatic authority of Pacific churches remains the envy of development specialists working on climate change. This focus on belief and institutional reach, however, neglects how Christian ritual practice can orientate and stabilise faith communities. Drawing on fieldwork in rural Fiji investigating village migration due to coastal flooding from sea-level rise, this paper shows how ritual practice strengthens community resilience when responding to climate change. In Vunidogoloa, villagers employed the Old Testament myth of Exodus to (re)create ritual responses to vent the emotional/spiritual trauma of leaving their ancestral home. Whereas in the nearby village Vunisavisavi, such ritual responses have been lacking and village relocation remained problematic.

Author Biography

Thomas Arthur John White, University of Otago

Thomas A. J. White is a PhD candidate in the Religion Programme at the University of Otago. His research explores issues of public religion in the South Pacific, with a specialisation on religion, law and politics in Fiji. Before Otago, Thomas worked for four years as a lecturer at the Fiji National University, coordinating the University’s undergraduate Ethics and Governance course. He has master’s degrees from Durham University in Religion and Society (2011), and Edinburgh University in Philosophy and Politics (2006).




How to Cite

White, T. A. J. (2019). Christianity and Climate Change Adaption: Sea-level Rise and Ritualising Village Relocation in Fiji. Sites: A Journal of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies, 16(1).