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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Week 4: Water - Source of life or channel of death?

The men of the city said to Elisha, \"Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive.\"
\"Bring me a new bowl,\" he said, \"and put salt in it.\" So they brought it to him.

Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it, saying,
\"This is what the LORD says: \'I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.\'
And the water has remained wholesome to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken.

2 Kings 2:19-22 (NIV)

Water is the source of life. The mountain spring that quenches ones? thirst; showers of rain that rejuvenate the parched earth; swift rivers, still lochs and stormy seas that extend beyond the horizon, teeming with life. But this very source of life, when contaminated can be the harbinger of disease and death. Micro-organisms and chemicals in water people drink can cause disease and it is estimated that 5.7% of the total disease burden occurring worldwide and 4.0% of all deaths can be attributed to water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Environmental sanitation and human health are closely linked. Poor management of human waste can lead to disease transmission. Presently 2.4 billion people have no access to basic sanitation.

It is amazing that even as the human civilization has achieved dizzying heights, the basic requirements of clean water and safe sanitation are not being met for a large proportion of the human family.

In the Bible, narratives of purification and the healing of waters - to make it fit for consumption, show the preoccupation of early societies to ensure healthy and pure sources of water. (Exodus 15:22 - 27, II Kings 2:19-22)

The Bible also clearly documents the importance that communities gave to environmental and sanitation issues. The importance of cleanliness was always emphasized. Yet the teachings consistently stressed that cleanliness and purity were a matter of the heart and of one's conduct, and about much more than meticulous adherence to ceremonial rituals. Nevertheless, proper sanitary practices (Deuteronomy 23:12, 13) were also stipulated to preserve and promote the health of communities by ensuring safe disposal of excreta and the protection of water sources.

Why are the truths that were recognized by faith communities for thousands of years still not being realized by society today? Why do we accept such glaring inequity as normal? Why do we continue to wallow in our own comfort zones? Why are we blind to the precepts and obligations that we are bound to as disciples of Jesus Christ? How can we continue to allow the pollution of the source of life so it becomes a channel of death?

Dr. Manoj Kurian, World Council of Churches

Together we can make a difference

  • Find out about what is causing water and river pollution where you live.
  • Organize a river cleanup in your community. It\'s a great way to reconnect your family, friends and neighbours with the streams and rivers in your backyard. A very helpful tool is the River Cleanup Organizer\'s Handbook by American Rivers, which includes important organizational and safety tips.

Links to further information

  • River Cleanup Planning Checklist and Safety Tips (Texas Waterway Cleanup Program)
  • International Year of Sanitation 2008
  • The Sanitation Scandal (Tearfund) - This report, drawing on case studies from Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Madagascar, highlights barriers to delivering improved sanitation and hygiene and suggests how the international community and  national governments should respond. Available in French and English
  • World Health Organization (WHO) on Water
  • SaniCon - An Environmental Sanitation Network which provides information on technologies, institutions and financing of sanitation systems around the world.
Posted By: Ecumenical Water Network on Feb 25, 2008 08:54AM