Lenten Initiative Focuses on Water

February 25, 2009

A UMNS Report

By Linda Bloom*

Feb. 25, 2009


Instead of "doing without" during Lent, Christians are being encouraged to think about what others in need can "do with" access to water resources.


The Ecumenical Water Network has developed the "Seven Weeks for Water" initiative as a concrete way for congregations and denominational organizations to focus on water justice over the Lenten Period. The World Council of Churches, Church World Service, and the All Africa Conference of Churches are members of the network's steering group.


The first set of resources, available in English, Spanish, German and French, were posted February 25, Ash Wednesday, at www.oikoumene.org/en/activities/ewn-home.html. (Click on "Resources," then on "Seven Weeks for Water.")


Among the resources are short biblical meditations for each week from theologians and church activists in Africa, Europe, and North and South America.


Other resources include a brochure, fact sheet, instructions on how to build a "virtual water cube," various reports, worship materials, and a Bible study.


Another opportunity to highlight the importance of water during Lent will happen on March 22, World Water Day, which focuses attention on the importance of freshwater and advocates for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.


The United Methodist Committee on Relief and Church World Service are among the humanitarian agencies that help local communities improve their access to water. In Prey Char, Cambodia, for example, CWS provided materials so villagers could develop a well, resulting in a permanent source of safe water. UMCOR and various United Methodist congregations have assisted with well-drilling projects in a number of countries, including Haiti, Mozambique, and Ghana.


Factors affecting public access to adequate water supplies include deforestation, pollution, population growth, industrial and agricultural demand, and the privatization of water resources. Nevertheless, access to water is a fundamental human right, Christians involved in the Ecumenical Water Network believe. The network was formed so Christians could be a part of the debate on water issues. By raising awareness and engaging the ecumenical community in common action, the network promotes the preservation, responsible management, and the equitable distribution of water for all.


While control of the management and distribution of water should go to local communities, national and international policies are needed to insure everyone has access to water.


"Governments need to understand that it is their obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill people's right to water," the network states on its website. "Doing so includes giving priority to the needs and rights of the most vulnerable groups in society. Democratic control of water supply systems and resources needs to be ensured, as well as public accountability and transparency."


*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.