Christian groups focus on ‘water justice’

Christian groups focus on ‘water justice’

Humanitarian and advocacy groups are marking the March 22 commemoration of World Water Day with renewed focus on the need for “water justice”.

World Water Day observances originated from the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro and are meant to highlight the need to address water scarcity and other problems related to the environment and water.

“The global water crisis is going to be one of the ‘hot topics’ and key issues of the 21st century,” Luciano Kovacs, the North America Regional Secretary of the World Student Christian Federation, said. “Water could become the oil of the 21st century.”

The Geneva-based federation has initiated a global water justice campaign that begins on March 22. It is asking its local movements of ecumenical student groups to participate in an international effort to take action against the problems of “water scarcity, water pollution and water commercialisation and privatisation,” viewing them as “serious threats to our fellow people of Earth, the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalised, with whom we are called to walk in solidarity.”

“As stewards of Creation, water reminds us to connect at the most basic elemental level. We recognise that water is a real, universal need and that connects all of God’s world,” the statement said. “As Christians, we know that water is a powerful symbol of our thirst for justice, of the power of the Holy Spirit, and of the wellspring of life in Jesus Christ.”

The federation campaign begins on the day the United Nations calls for global attention to the problems of water which Kovacs, who is based in New York, said are disproportionately affecting poor countries.

“For the global south, the water crisis is already a daily reality,” he said in an interview. “It’s a matter of life and death for the planet.”

Among the activities planned by local World Student Christian Federation groups are prayer services, forums and “flash mob freezes” on college and university campuses.

In the United States, the international relief and development agency Church World Service urged the United States to accelerate its efforts to help meet current and future water needs for all and is urging Congress to approve $500 million in global funding for safe drinking water and sanitation for FY2011.

The Ecumenical Water Network,  based at the World Council of Churches, is an international network of churches and church-related organisations which aims “to promote the preservation, responsible management and the equitable distribution of water for all, based on the understanding that water is a gift of God and a fundamental human right”, through raising the awareness of the churches and promoting ecumenical action on water issues.

As part of its work towards this aim, EWN has been producing the “Seven Weeks for Water” for Lent in English, Spanish, French and German. Also centering around World Water Day on March 22, this series of weekly Bible reflections is accompanied by liturgical resources and suggestions for activities for use by individuals, groups and congregations. This year centers on “water and just peace,” examining links between water, conflicts, justice and peace. The resources are available here.

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