Ecumenical Water Network

The EWN is a network of churches and Christian organizations promoting people's access to water around the world

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Plenty of water, but poor provision, is too often the refrain for Arnold Temple

Plenty of water, but poor provision, is too often the refrain for Arnold Temple

Rev. Arnold Temple at the opening service of "Seven Weeks for Water", 1 March 2017. ©Ivars Kupcis/WCC

Mar 10, 2017

Some of Africa’s dry nations might at first glance with envy at Sierra Leone which has a rainy season lasting six months every year in which many of the downpours are torrential.

Rev. Arnold Temple, a Sierra Leonean Methodist minister, however, sums up the situation: “There are many challenges relating to water in the region. God has blessed the region with plenty of water and water sources.”

“The problem is distribution. It is the task of governments to ensure the provision of water for those they govern. Some communities are totally neglected in that regard.”

A theologian at the College of Theology and Management in Freetown, Temple is the co-chair of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Ecumenical Water Network (EWN) International Reference Group.

The incongruity of abundant water, but poor provision, is replicated in other nations in the West Africa region and other parts of Africa.

“Recently, members of the working group of the Ecumenical Water Network visited a slum in Lagos called Makoko. It’s a kind of peninsula, surrounded by water. Yet the provision of potable water for drinking and sanitation remains a great challenge.

“That example of the deprivation in communities is replicated all over the region. Like Makoko in Lagos, there is Kroo Bay in Freetown that has a similar experience,” says Temple who is on the executive team of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC).

Water is of special interest to Temple as he teaches eco-theology.

In Sierra Leone, he says, there are many water challenges, some of which resonate throughout the African region such as a lack of  reliable data to work from.

“It is believed that only about 2.5 million people out of a population of 7 million can access treated pipe borne water in Sierra Leone. But even so, supply is not continuous and some of them walk miles to such access.

“People, especially children, have to wake up at odd hours, say about 3 a.m., to access water when the supply becomes available,” explains Temple.

One of side results of this is that it leads to some teenage pregnancy experienced in some communities.

“It also affects the education of young people, especially girls, who after waking up in the early hours and walking miles to fetch water are very tired and can’t cope with their school work,” says Temple, who also serves on the WCC Central Committee.

Only about 50 percent of urban dwellers access relatively safe drinking water from stand-pipes and hand-pumps within one kilometre of their dwelling.

Rural areas are mostly supplied by dug-out open wells, streams, rivers and ponds that are often unsafe and dangerous to their health.

“The underlining fact that we should not lose sight of is that water is life. The mission of Christ is a life affirming mission – ‘I have come that they may have life in abundance’.  To deny water to any community is to deny life to God’s people,” asserts Temple.

He says, “Jesus points to the final judgement and among the criteria for salvation is that of providing water to those that are thirsty – ‘I was thirsty you gave me a drink… whatever you did for one of the least of my brethren to do it for me’ (Matthew 25. 35 – 40).”

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Lenten campaign "Seven Weeks for Water"