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5 Ways You Can Save Lives on World Water Day

Image Courtesy of World Bank Photo Collection

By Brian McLaren and Susan Barnett via On Faith

Water is the one symbol shared by all faiths, so it may be surprising to learn that this sacred gift can also be one of the deadliest things on earth.

Here are five things to know about water — and five simple ways you can make a difference:

1. Water is health.

Look no further than the Ebola crisis for a tragic reminder of just how difficult it is to contain disease without clean water. People in contact with the infected and deceased, especially family members in many villages, couldn’t even wash their hands.

The lack of access to safe water and sanitation causes 50 percent of under-nutrition and fills 50 percent of hospital beds in developing countries. The global water crisis is the leading cause of death of children under the age of five, killing more kids than malaria, AIDS, and TB combined.

Think about the billions of dollars spent fighting HIV/AIDS and malaria. Then realize that the absence of safe water and sanitation means immune-suppressed people living with HIV/AIDS must take their medication with dirty water — ,and no sanitation increases breeding grounds for malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

What can you do?
Support WASH — WAter, Sanitation, and Hygiene. Every faith and denomination engages in global health and development work — and from farming and nutrition to maternal/child health and education, success relies on access to safe water and sanitation. Support your faith-based development organizations, and let them know that WASH needs to be a priority in all the good work they do.

2. Water is education.

More than half of all primary schools in developing countries don’t have adequate water, and nearly two-thirds lack adequate sanitation. That means students gets chronically sick and miss a lot of school. One third of school children suffer from intestinal worms from unsafe water.

Though we’re seeing an increasing focus on the importance of girls’ education, without water, many girls must skip classes to help their mothers carry heavy cans of water for their families, sometimes for miles every day. Many drop out of school entirely once they hit puberty because the lack of separate sanitation and washing facilities is humiliating.

The best way to turn a child into a dependent and impoverished adult is to deny her an education.

What can you do?
Get your kids involved. More than 400,000 students in 800 schools across the U.S. have already made a global impact working with H2O for Life. When a small village in Kenya told a schoolteacher that it was desperate for clean water, middle school teacher Patty Hall introduced the idea to her students in Minneapolis. After they learned about the global water crisis and their own water consumption, her class tried to raise a small amount of money to help the village school get water and sanitation. It turned out to be far easier than they thought — this village now has a permanent source of water all year round and H2O for Life was born.

Since 2007, students across the U.S. have supported over 600 WASH projects, helping over a quarter million students just like themselves — in Africa, India, the Caribbean, Central and South America. H2O for Life has all the free tools and support you’ll need.

3. Water is safety.

Without access to latrines, many women and girls dare to relieve themselves only under the cover of darkness. Their organs can be damaged and nighttime trips to secluded fields put them at nightly risk of violence and sexual assault.

What can you do?
In honor of World Water Day (March 22 each year) designate one spring week at your house of worship as “World Water Week.” Feel free to adapt A Sermon for World Water, and encourage your clergy to deliver it. Share it from pulpit to pew on your website and weekly bulletin.

Water doesn’t have to be serious all the time. Have fun — challenge your congregation to drop a coin in a bucket every time they flush the toilet or turn on the faucet. Faiths for Safe Water has free and fun ideas that help families lower water bills while helping raise funds for those without.

4. Water is equality.

Women and girls can spend up to 60 percent of each day walking to collect water, sometimes along desolate and unsafe paths. It’s a heavy, backbreaking burden that keeps women, families, and whole villages in poverty.

What can you do?
Have a child in Sunday school? Download a free faith-based curriculum that engages children in service learning around water and faith.

5. Water is peace

Peace cannot be achieved when some have plenty and others don’t have something as basic to life as water. Conversely, conflicts have been averted when access to water is negotiated. The world is facing a global water crisis, including in parts of the U.S., and it is only going to get worse without our intervention.

What can you do?
For faith leaders interested in lending your voice on behalf of water for all, please contact Faiths for Safe Water founder Susan Barnett at susankbarnett@gmail.com.

* * *

Our faith voices are the voices of hope. The global water crisis is going to affect us all. Who better to take the lead on behalf of all of God’s children than us?


Brian McLaren is an author, speaker, activist, blogger, and networker. He began his career as a college English teacher and then spent more than 20 years as a pastor. He has written more than a dozen books, including “Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?” and “We Make the Road by Walking.” He is an initiator with the Convergence Network.
Susan Barnett is a former award-winning network news producer; she continues to produce documentary films and is a strategic media and communications consultant to nonprofits, working at the nexus of media, the faith and moral voice, and social justice. She is founder of Faiths for Safe Water and Impact-Communications.

 

Getting Involved: World Water Day, March 22

As Faiths For Safe Water is drumming up awareness for an issue that is killing 8,000 children daily in the world, unclean water, the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions shares that on World Water Day, the human spirit and the spirit of so many faiths are united in recognizing the urgency of this global crisis.

The Interfaith movement has the opportunity to bring to light the power to solve this crisis. In the U.S., Faiths For Safe Water is circulating a petition today asking Congress for passage of a bipartisan bill, as well as sharing the facts to help all interested advocates in their grassroots and coalition efforts.  But they’ve also created a how-to guide for Congregations and Communities to support the cause of safe water worldwide for all.

Invitation to celebrate World Water Day in “Blessing Water”

Ambassador of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, Heidi Rautionmaa, performs Interfaith work for a partnering network to the CPWR in Finland. Their Blessing Water event was performed in the spirit of 2013′s being the U.N.’s International Year Of Water Cooperation,” the equitable sharing of water will become another vehicle for promoting peace worldwide.

Water is an important symbolic and practical element of many faiths. Water is therefore a key element in ceremonies and religious rites.

World Water Day is held annually on March 22 as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. In 2013, the reflection is of the International Year of Water Cooperation. World Water Day is also dedicated to the theme of cooperation around water.

“World Water Day could be celebrated together with people from different faiths in blessing water all around the world,” says Heidi Rautionmaa, a coordinator of Interfaith Dialogue Network in Finland, a cooperative network with the Parliament of World´s Religions.

Water is a vulnerable entity that demands an assessment of how spirituality directly, or indirectly, influences water governance.

“Spirituality refers to an inner path enabling a person to discover the deepest values and meanings by which people live. Holistic spirituality and ethics are important elements to have a sustainable way of life,” says Rautionmaa. Topics such as privatization, industrial pollution and water rights are deeply moral issues effecting not only humanity, but all life on earth.

The growing interfaith and ecumenical movement, especially on the grassroots level, can be giving when responding to today’s ethical crisis. The key principle underlying the Golden Rule is the unity and interconnectedness of all things. It is one of the cornerstones for dialogue and cooperation in promoting more peaceful, just and sustainable global community.

Interfaith Dialogoue Network in Finland consists of Faiths Without Borders/Uskot ilman rajoja ry., Religions for Peace Women of Faith Network in Finland, The Forum of Religions in Helsinki URI CC, Living together in cities/ Kaupunki yhteisönä ry. and Baabeli Netmagazine invites people and communities all around the world to bless water on World Water Day.

In designating 2013 as the UN International Year of Water Cooperation, the UNGA recognizes that cooperation is essential to strike a balance between different needs and priorities, and that sharing this precious resource equitably makes using water as an instrument of peace. Promoting water cooperation implies an interdisciplinary approach bringing in cultural, educational and scientific factors, as well as religious, ethical, social, political, legal, institutional and economic dimensions.

Watch:

“Blessing Water” in Finland to Celebrate International Year of Water Cooperation

Orthodox Community in Heinola Finland celebrated the Water Day earlier this week in blessing water. Holy water was sprinkled on people and they also blessed themselves with holy water by drinking it. The Water Day event was organized by Henna Paasonen, the council member of Faiths Without Borders/Uskot ilman rajoja ry.

Peace is every step.

-Thich Nhat Hanh

World Water Day: A Call to Faith

by Katherine Marshall
from Huffington Post

March 22 is World Water Day, and today events the world over focus on water’s importance, for life in every form, and for the human spirit.
Few would disagree that WASH — the acronym that links water, sanitation and hygiene — is a critical need. Many actors are working hard to fill the glaring gaps that still exist and to meet the ideal of assuring “clean water for all” and decent sanitation. There’s some good news: the targets for water supply set by all the United Nations at the turn of millennium for the year 2015 have already been met (though 780 million people still lack safe drinking water). That’s something to celebrate and the achievement reflects extraordinary efforts — providing water to 2 billion people since 1990 is no mean feat. But sanitation goals lag far behind and well over 2 billion people lack access to anything approximating decent toilet facilities. We should never forget the daily challenges this lack means for people, and especially women, whose lives are often in danger as they seek quiet and privacy.

It should come as no surprise that many leading advocates and groups working in the world’s most difficult and remote places on water and sanitation draw their inspiration from their religious faith. In virtually every faith tradition, water plays a central role. It cleanses, purifies, sustains, heals and nurtures. It inspires with its beauty and poetry, and it conveys the mystery of life. In interfaith rituals, the shared focus on water is a common bond. WASH is so universal a need that it gives meaning to calls for social justice and equality. Surely few will be unmoved by the gross unfairness of the gap between turning on a faucet, assured that clean water will flow, and imagining the women who walk for miles to carry home a jug of brackish water.

World Water Day has a different theme each year and this year it is food security and agriculture. It’s a reminder that the main cause of hunger and famine is drought and that water is vital for all agriculture. Each of us drinks between two and four quarts of water every day, but in truth it is in the food we eat that most water is consumed. Producing a pound of beef consumes about 4,000 gallons of water while producing two pounds of wheat needs 400 gallons of water.

Click here to read the full article

CPWR Chair Urges Interfaith Cooperation on Water Security

Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, the Council’s Chair of the Board of Trustees, championed interfaith collaboration as one of the greatest forces for water conservation, protection and positive consumer change.  Imam Mujahid was among the speakers for the United Nations’ World Water Day Conference in Chicago, hosted by the Office of the Governor.

World Water Day has been observed on March 22nd since 1993 voted by the United Nations as “a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.”  This year’s theme was “Water and Food Security: the world is thirsty because we are hungry.” Food security and water access are linked, as the UN projects that by 2025, over two-thirds of the world population could be living in conditions of water-scarcity or under water-stress. Further, 70% of the world water supply is used for food production, which is not sustainable, and climate change is a direct impact of overconsumption and ineffective consumption. Mujahid reminded his fellow religious leaders that America is indeed a religious nation, so by harnessing that collective religious responsibility, religious Americans can have a direct impact on water, food, and fuel usage. With 15% of all food in the US going to waste, Mujahid urged all present to reinforce the message “consume less, share more,” and to “share a message of hope”, in order to create a more sustainable future for water usage and food production, and to fulfill a collective responsibility as people of faith to use our given supply responsibly.

Trustee Emeritus Swami Varadananda, long-time Parliament organizer and manager of the Vivekananda Vedanta Society in Chicago, reflected on how CPWR had highlighted these issues at past Parliaments in Cape Town (1999) and Barcelona (2004), where lack of water accessibility and food insecurity in relation to sustainability were addressed.

The Dr. Robert Henderson, Vice-Chair for the Council and also an elected member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States, spoke to the group about building awareness around clean water access and food insecurity, especially with youth in religious communities. He suggested as well the importance of recording and sharing local initiatives to aid the hungry with the interfaith community at large to maintain momentum and education.

The second half of the meeting was hosted by members of Faith in Place, a Chicago-based interfaith organization that advocates “stronger congregations for a sustainable world.”

In the spirit of CPWR, this meeting brought together people of faith to discuss and work toward action around vital issues that impact people locally and globally.