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What moves above the waters: fresh water challenges of the Pacific

What moves above the waters: fresh water challenges of the Pacific, by Rev. Nikotemo Sopepa, Mission Secretary of the Council for World Mission in the Pacific region.
What moves above the waters: fresh water challenges of the Pacific

Rev. Nikotemo Sopepa, Mission Secretary of the Council for World Mission in the Pacific region. Photo: CWM

The second reflection of the seven weeks for water 2020 of the WCC’s Ecumenical Water Network is by Nikotemo Sopepa, an ordained minister of the Ekalesia Kelisiano Tuvalu. Married with two children, he is currently the  Mission Secretary of the Council for World Mission in the Pacific region.  In the following reflection he compares the life affirming spirit of God that was hovering on the waters in the beginning of the creation story with today’s “death dealing” spirit of commercialization of water over the waters of the pacific region which is worsening its fresh water availability.

Text: Genesis 1: 2 (NIV)

"1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters."

Above the waters in the Pacific, bulldozers are moving in rapid paces clearing forest for new developments. There are ripples above the waters too, caused by continuous noises from chainsaws debauching the beauty of rainforests. Usually, hopes for life moves above the water lenses in small island atolls of the Pacific, now salt water seeps in from beneath, while from above it’s a flood of salt water flooding these freshwater lenses due to sea level rise.

Definitely the current of the waters in the Pacific have changed, and some are finding it difficult to find even a pint of water to drink. I know, surrounded by waters of the Pacific ocean, many Pacific Islanders do not think that we have a freshwater crisis, apart from those in low lying atolls. But it won’t be long before the waterfall and rivers give up on the rapid pace in which development is accelerating in the Pacific. And with the commercialising and privatisation of water, there is a looming danger of access to fresh drinking water.

Last year we watched in disbelief and sorrow as king tides flooded the island of Tamana in Kiribati, sinking all the wells beneath the swell of waves contaminating drinking water. The excessive and illegal loggings in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands create dry barren lands. The rarity of rainfall in most northern Pacific atolls due to climatic disorder has created few states of emergencies. What is moving above the waters in the Pacific is death. There is no affirmation of life that can guarantee safe drinking water for Pacific people in the future.

The pattern described above is almost the reversal of the Genesis creation narrative where the Spirit of God as life affirming guarantor moves over the waters in the midst of darkness, chaos and nothingness. The movement of the Spirit of God over the waters gave path to light and birthed life and presence. Now we have death moving over the Pacific waters birthing death to the environment leaving thirsty a million mouths throughout the ecological order. The whole organisation in ecology, the people, the biosphere, the ecosystem is all thirsting for clean drinking water. Even the heavens above some places in the Pacific thirst for water.

There need to be rethinking and reexamining of the importance of water in the Pacific from a Pacific context. The people of the Pacific needs to retire to the traditional way of treating water as a channel that connects the heavens and earth. It is only when we sees that water is part of us and cannot be commercialised, then we will also be able to consociate our actions with the entire creation. When we do this, the Spirit of God that was moving above the waters in the beginning of time, will move together with us above the waters, creating newness of life in the heavens, and here on earth.

Questions

  1. Does water have any cultural significance in your context? If so, how can these implications pave a way for assurance of safe and clean water for your community?
  2. Could we identify some of the things we do that are part of the  “death moving” above the waters? E.g. buying of bottled waters.

Actions

  1. In this season of Lent we need to forego of some of the simple daily habits and practices we think are healthy, yet damaging to the environment, especially water. I have highlighted buying of bottled waters in the questions above. Can we fast, in a practical way, from such habits?
  2. We can come together as churches or communities and discuss ways in which we could resist corporates and even government developments that undermine the beauty of our environment in the name of profit and economic growth.

Additional resources:

https://pacinst.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/worlds_water_2002_chapter53.pdf

https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/rr-fiji-water-shortages-resilient-development-300817-en.pdf

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nna2vjm9PrA