Ecumenical Water Network

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Good living: the Road Map to Hope - an Ecuadorian perspective!

The fifth reflection of the of the "Seven Weeks for Water", of World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Water Network, is by Veronica Flachier, a journalist and theologian from Ecuador. In the following reflection she turns a leaf from the Ecuadorian Constitution and its national plan for gender equality and poverty eradication, which puts drinking water and sanitation at its center. She further adds that Ecuador recognises Good Living or Sumak Kawsay as an alternative to the so-called “development” and promotes living in harmony and in balance with the cycles of Mother Earth and “mother water”.
Good living: the Road Map to Hope - an Ecuadorian perspective!

Veronica Flachier

The fifth reflection of the of the "Seven Weeks for Water", of World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Water Network, is by Veronica Flachier, a journalist and theologian from Ecuador. In the following reflection she turns a leaf from the Ecuadorian Constitution and its national plan for gender equality and poverty eradication, which  puts drinking water and sanitation at its center.  She further adds that Ecuador recognises Good Living or Sumak Kawsay as an alternative to the so-called “development” and promotes living in harmony and in balance with the cycles of Mother Earth and “mother water”.

Text:

Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. (John 7:37-38) (NIV)

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10) (NIV)

Reflection:

The state of water resources in Latin America.

Latin America, with its large territory that spans from the south of Río Bravo (Grande) to Tierra del Fuego, is one of the richest, and at the same time one of the most unequal regions in the world. The gap between the small strip that contains more wealth and power, and the large mass of poor people, is very wide. This is reflected in all aspects of community life for the inhabitants of Latin American nations.

In terms of the issue we are dealing with, the south American region, possessor of 33% of the renewable water resources in the globe, is the area with the greatest availability of water in the world. Its 3100 m3 of water per capita per year is double the world average per capita. Nevertheless, an inadequate management of water has prevented all who live in the region from having the same chances of accessing this vital liquid.

According to data from the Development Bank of Latin America, 2 out of 5 Latin Americans in rural areas do not have access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

In urban settings, problems are related to little investment in the construction, maintenance and rehabilitation of water systems, given that the interests and agendas of those who have the power impose severe financial constraints, which result in both national and local governments being prevented from implementing plans and programs to address the basic needs of all people in a balanced and fair manner. Sadly, the solution to this problem has been the privatization of key sectors, amongst them, of course, water and the management of it.

In Latin America, 40% to 60% of the water comes from aquifers that are increasingly polluted due to the constant increase of extractive activities such as oil exploitation and mining.

The great lakes and river basins that cross Latin American territories are severely polluted and under constant pressure due to decades of use and hoarding of water for agricultural and industrial activities which in many cases are subject to the interests of large multinational corporations.[1]

 

Alternatives to the crisis

All of the above amounts to a crisis of resources, in a scenario that puts Creation and all of its inhabitants at risk. The damage caused by climate change demonstrates that this is the case. The current water crisis stems from a crisis of values that has normalized the absurdity of putting markets over human beings and the nature that is our home.

The collapse of the great stories that included a moral has altered the social conscience and promotes the delusion that there no longer exist social groups that demand a future of justice and communal wellbeing. Nevertheless, in the midst of the crisis, the cries of alter-globalist movements[2] resound in the streets and squares to remind us that “another world is possible".

Meanwhile, in Latin America, specifically in Ecuador and Bolivia, the principles of Good Living, inspired by the ancient cultures from that region, subscribe to their respective constitutional mandates. Good Living is a proposal born from the core of native peoples as a strategy to create “the other world that is possible.”

 

The Proposal: Good Living

Good Living or Sumak Kawsay is an alternative for development. It is a notion of collective wellbeing that arises, on the one hand, from the postcolonial discourse, which is critical of development, and on the other, from the cosmovision of the native peoples of Los Andes.  Living Well or Good Living, means living in plenitude. It means knowing how to live in harmony and in balance with the cycles of Mother Earth, the cosmos, life and history, and in balance with all forms of existence. And that is precisely the path and the vision of the community; it involves learning how to live first and then learning how to live together. One cannot Live Well if others live badly, or if Mother Nature is harmed. Living Well means understanding that the damage to a species means damage to the whole.

Good Living contains 13 principles. Number 13 presents Water as a Mother:

Knowing how to give and knowing how to receive. Recognizing that life is the combination of many beings and many forces. Everything flows in life: we give and we receive; the interaction of both forces generates life. We must know how to give gladly and be grateful for all that we receive. Being grateful means knowing how to receive: receive the light of Father Sun, the strength of Mother Earth, flow like Mother Water, and everything that life gives us.

Within the framework of the constitutional mandate of Good Living, the Ecuadorian State declares nature a holder of rights, this being a worldwide historic declaration in favour of the environment. It must be emphasized that the rights of nature in relation to the rights conferred to the human species, are of equal status, and are interdependent.

The rights of nature are set out in articles 71 and 72 of the Ecuadorian Constitution:

  • Right to have its existence comprehensively respected, as well as a right to the maintenance and regeneration of its vital cycles, structure, functions and evolutionary processes (Article 71).
  • Nature has the right to be restored. This restoration will be independent of the obligation of the State and of natural persons or legal entities to compensate individuals and groups that depend on the natural systems affected (Article 72).

 

Ecuador´s National Plan for Good Living positions itself as a benchmark for international planning.

The government of Ecuador, through its National Plan for Good Living and its National Strategy for Gender Equality and the Eradication of Poverty, has put the drinking water and sanitation industries high on the country´s development agenda, succeeding in making the different state bodies align their efforts to significantly increase access to these basic services. In this context, the National Secretariat for Water proposes taking the final step to ensure that the whole of the population can exercise a fundamental human right recognized by the Constitution of Ecuador and international law, and is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations (UN), which set objectives not only related to access, but also to quality, affordability, and the social, economic and environmental sustainability of the services.[3]

 

Hope, our strategy.

Faced with the reality of injustice that lacerates us and tears us apart as individuals and societies, we Christians have an inexhaustible source of Water of Life that allows us to glimpse the fulfillment of God's promises in our communities. Christ´s Good News describes a future that is full of hope, when it reminds us that He came to give freedom back to the captives and the oppressed, to give sight back to the blind, and to announce the grace of the Lord (Luke 4:18-19).

Biblical accounts are sufficient evidence of that Father who is ever concerned with slaves, with the marginalized, stigmatized, the poor, widows and orphans, due to his persistent, scandalous and greatest love.

Reality and hope appear as fundamental principles of our faith, something that is aligned with the perspective of native peoples who believe in the redemption of Mother Earth, and of everything that she hosts loving and lavishly.

 

Let us reflect:

During Lent we are called to meditate on the role that we, as part of the Creation and as followers of Jesus, have to play on behalf of those who are most vulnerable, on behalf of our surroundings and to care for the environment and our Mother Earth.

  1. Are we aware of the state of depletion our planet finds itself in?
  2. Are we clear on the fact that the mismanagement of water resources puts at risk the continuity and quality of life for humankind and for our shared home?
  3. Could we enumerate the causes that give rise to the unequal access to water experienced by millions of human beings on our planet?
  4. What is our level of commitment to the water resources in our community?
  5. How can I contribute to the making of that different world that we yearn for?
  6. Do we understand that taking care of the water and the environment in general is an act of adherence to God´s plan?

 

Let us meditate on these words spoken by Jesus in John 7:37-38 & John 10:10:

 

Let us sing:

Where did this dirty water come from?

From the enormous factory that got it dirty.

Where did this dirty water come from?

From the faraway lake that got polluted.

We ask your forgiveness, for the water.

Because we did not take care of your Creation.

Where did this dirty water come from?

From the acid rain that fell the day before yesterday.

Where did this dirty water come from?

From that sewage that was received by the sea.[4]

 

Let us pray:

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of water that flows from your maternal and paternal loins

Thank you for the thirst for justice that impels us to seek a better world for all

Thank you for allowing us to feel the freshness of the spring of your love that renews us and redeems us every day

Thank you for being the stream that never dries up, that makes us fertile with seeds of hope

We thank you, in the name of Jesus, Christ resurrected and bringer of all Good News



[1] Sources: ARGENPRESS; materials from Bread for the World and the Latin American Water Tribunal; data about water access and sanitation from Join OMS/UNICEF Monitoring Programme, in Agua: Don de Dios, Derecho Humano y Bien Común,/ Water: Gift of God, Human Right and Common Good, a CLAI, REDA, CEDAM Publication, Quito, 2015.

[2] The alter-globalist movement is a civil movement that calls for changes in the international economic system and the unjust consequences of the neoliberal economic model. It was born as a result of the anti-globalization movements. Source: ciudadanosencrisis.wordpress.com

[3] Source: SENAGUA MAGAZINE 2016.www.agua.gob.ec

5 Taken from: Agua: Don de Dios, Derecho Humano y Bien Común/ Water: Gift of God, Human Right and Common Good; an CLAI, REDA, CELAM Publication, Quito, 2015.