Posted by: africanpressorganization | 12 August 2008

Water for all: young christians study defence of this precious resource


Water for all: young christians study defence of this precious resource

GENEVA, Switzerland, August 12, 2008/African Press Organization (APO)/ — “Water has no colour, no race, no nationality, it is the same all over the world,” according to Rania Flavie Tourma, an Orthodox Christian from Syria. So to her, it was perfectly natural that people from around the world gathered near Geneva, Switzerland at the Ecumenical Water Network (EWN) Summer School on Water to unite in defence of this natural resource.

While water is vital for all, Tourma and others attending this unique summer school know all too well that access to water, and the awareness of how precious it is, could hardly be more unequally distributed. As Christians, the 22 young men and women who met at the World Council of Churches (WCC) Ecumenical Institute in Bossey for eight days of intense learning about water issues feel compelled to speak out against this injustice.

Their professional backgrounds were as diverse as the 18 countries and six different continents they came from. Their presentations on water issues in their countries really complemented the lectures by international experts on water management, advocacy and development.

Summer school student Roderick Chukwuemeka Oji from Nigeria started his presentation holding up a small plastic pouch of water which is sold on the streets of Lagos for five Naira, less then five cents US. “In my country, we call this pure water,” he said.

However, the content of these packets is far from safe to drink, the law student and Presbyterian youth leader explained. All too often the water that is sealed in this transparent plastic comes from an uncontrolled source and bears a made-up license number. No wonder the elites prefer bottled water from abroad, he said.

Oji was not the only one who reported on poor drinking water supplies in a country blessed with rivers and abundant rain. Participants from Rwanda, Honduras, Armenia and Lesotho all spoke of the unequal distribution of a resource that is not so scarce.

Another student, Packiaraj Asirvatham from India, told of an apparently successful campaign four years ago in which several thousand local people rallied against the construction of a soft drinks factory in Gangaikondan, India, which was going to take unsustainable amounts of water out of a river which the whole district relied on.

While the campaign was successful at the time, the 27-year-old pastor of the Church of South India warned that vigilance remained necessary even after what seemed like a victory. Just a few days before leaving to attend the ecumenical summer school he had returned to Gangaikondan only to find that the bottling unit was now up and running.

Lead role for youth

Youth have an important role to play in the preservation of water according to Oji. The more established leaders, even within the church, often do not address these issues.

Lilit Babajanyan from Armenia added that if she wanted to do something to counterbalance the political influence of rich landowners in the fight over Armenia’s Lake Sevan the best starting point for her was her personal network of friends – a group of young Christians.

When the concern for creation brings together Christians aged 20 to 30, they will of course not limit themselves to academic exercises. In between sessions they shared about their homes and cultures and taught each other songs from their home churches.

The drawings and hip-hop lyrics posted on the Ecumenical Water Network’s summer blog also bear witness to their creative talents.

Creativity was one of the criteria for choosing candidates for the summer school because of its value in bringing to life powerful biblical stories about Christ’s promise of justice and the “living water” of faith.

“How can Americans hold water as sacred when it is wasted away every day?” Kelly Forbush, a theology student from the United Church of Christ in the USA, wrote in a blog entry about her reflections from one of the morning Bible studies. “Water comes in such abundance in America – almost all people can receive clean water anytime they want.”

One possible answer to Forbush’s question came through the water-themed worship service which the summer school participants prepared for the Lutheran congregation of Geneva. With prayer, songs and acting the service created links between the biblical imagery of the “living water” and the modern day reality of many people not having access to water.

The first generation of summer school “alumni”, whether they came from the privileged regions of North America and Europe, where a constant supply of clean water is taken for granted, or whether they are faced with its scarcity in their every day lives, will not forget the need for water is shared by all.

And they will not keep to themselves the realization that consumer patterns in their own communities – concerning energy, meat, traffic and many other things – affect the water supply of people living on the other side of the globe.

As they travelled back to their home countries in early August, some already had concrete ideas about how to spread what they have learned, for example performing plays about the water crisis in public places or beverage stores. Others think about organizing regional summer schools. For knowledge, just like faith, multiplies when it is shared.


SOURCE : World Council of Churches


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