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Spiritual dimensions and interfaith cooperation key to sustainable development

Spiritual dimensions and interfaith cooperation key to sustainable development

Bishop Arnold Temple speaks at World Water Week alongside Mufti Mohammad Zoubi. Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC

24 September 2018

*By Claus Grue

Three weeks have now passed since this year’s edition of the World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden was wrapped up and delegates from all over the world headed home, inspired to “float” the issues, as the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Water Network (WCC-EWN) chairperson, Bishop Arnold Temple from Sierra Leone, put it.

Along with other religious leaders, he represents the spiritual dimensions of environmental issues. Another influential religious leader, who also participated in Stockholm, is Muslim leader Mufti Mohammad Zoubi, Mufti of Amman, Jordan.

The Mufti believes that taking care of water is both a religious duty and a societal responsibility. It is an issue that concerns all, irrespective of religion. And he is eager to move ahead and implement more water management initiatives where faith-based organizations are involved:

“This event has been of major importance and it is now time to translate it into practical projects. We must broaden the scope to more projects in more countries”, he says.

In his home country Jordan, where water is a scarce commodity, workshops and seminars to raise awareness among Imams about efficient water use are offered in cooperation with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). GIZ has also provided mobile maintenance trucks and training on plumbing as part of a project to empower caretakers. So far, primarily mosques, of which there are 7,000 in Jordan, have been involved in the programme, but the Mufti hopes that the project can be expanded into schools, hospitals and other institutions.

A long-time advocate for interfaith dialogue and environmental sustainability, he believes that teaching the values of water at an early age is the key to long-term accomplishments. The Islamic faith and what the Quran teach, play a central role. The Mufti explains why: “Wherever you find water you will also find wealth. Water is easily found but it is also one of the most precious things if we lose it. Water is a blessing from God and God will ask us if we lose it. The Quran tells us that we have created every living creature out of water and that life equals water. It tells us that we should never waste water, even if we are at a running river. Disrespecting this is a violation of Islam”.

To further raise awareness, five fatwas (per definition non-binding but authoritative legal opinions) have been issued in Jordan:

  1. Water is a gift of God.
  2. It is unreligious to be wasteful.
  3. You must pay your water bills.
  4. It is unreligious to pollute water.
  5. You can irrigate crops with waste water.

The Mufti believes that interfaith cooperation, not only involving Christians and Muslims but also Hindu and other religions, is of major importance to sustainability projects and he is confident that it will expand and improve the quality of life for many people.

“I am indeed hopeful and with the WCC support we will move in the right direction”, he concludes.

EWN coordinator Dinesh Suna is pleased with the outcome of the Stockholm event and assures the Mufti and other religious leaders that the support will continue: “Interreligious collaboration is essential to raise global awareness at all levels in society, particularly in rural areas, where faith-based organizations (FBOs) are present in local communities”, Suna explains.

Rev. Henrik Grape, sustainable development officer at the Church of Sweden, agrees: “FBOs must be involved in processes and conversations at all levels”, he says.

Raising awareness of the spiritual dimension of sustainable development largely depends on communication and dialogue, which is why the presence of religious leaders and representatives of different faiths are regarded as important at large events such as the World Water Week.

This year, the co-founders of Stockholm-based Millennium Water Story (MWS), which is an independent online information and education initiative focusing on water resources management in India, participated and shared their narrative.

“In our scriptures values are connected to water. As other religions, Hinduism reverences water”, says Nandita Singh, co-founder of the MWS.

Learn more about the WCC Ecumenical Water Network

Doing his best without being the best (WCC press release of 7 September 2018)

Faith and Water: Translating words into action (WCC press release of 30 August 2018)

Audio interview with Dinesh Suna and Bishop Temple: How do we achieve water justice for everyone? (by UCB News)

WCC joins partners for “World Water Week” dialogue in Stockholm (WCC press release of 15 August 2018)

Programme: Water and Faith Acting in Partnership to Archive SDG 6

Millennium Water Story on Religion and Water

*Claus Grue is communication consultant for the World Council of Churches