School of Religion, Philosophy & Classics

PhD study examines climate change in Kiribati, South Pacific

Dr Tioti Timon graduated with a PhD in Theology and Development. His thesis examined the ways in which climate change is affecting the people, indigenous culture, and environment of Kiribati, in the South Pacific and the role that the church and the Tangintebu Theological College is playing to equip church leadership to respond to these challenges. The study also assessed the extent to which environmental and ecological issues are integrated into the overall theological curriculum.
Dr Tioti Timon

Timon was motivated by the fact that his people are affected by the destructive impacts of global warming and the rise in the sea level. He also wanted to assist his church in its mission to address such issues.

He argues that ‘when the church fails in its mission in developing a proactive and indigenously-informed approach to addressing environmental issues, then the fullness of life that is embedded within its missio-ecclesial identity and vocation that is bequeathed by Jesus (John 10:10) will not be realised.’

His findings suggest the need for a theological curriculum on climate change that addresses people’s needs in the contemporary context and transforms the church’s missional structure and vision.

‘This study has broadened my views on the mission of the church in the contemporary context. As a principal, I have access to the executive committee where I could influence the church to be more life giving in its mission to address climate change,’’ he said.

Timon was awarded a scholarship by the Council for World Mission’s (CWM) Special Academic Accompaniment Programme (SAAP). This enabled him to spend two-and-a-half years at UKZN. ‘I come from a small island country and arriving in South Africa was challenging as the culture and the people are different. But it was a pleasant experience.’

He thanked his family, friends, supervisors Professor Roderick Hewitt and Dr Chammah Kaunda and the staff at the Council for World Mission office in Singapore under the leadership of Dr Sudipta Singh.

His advice to other researchers is to work hard, be prayerful at all times, manage research time effectively and aim for success.

Asked about his future plans, Timon replied, ‘I will give my life to serve my people and my church. I will also be willing to serve a wider community in any places that need my help if my church releases me to work somewhere.’

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