According to the Christian tradition, Lent is a time to prepare for the celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ. During this period many people engage in fasting and practice moderation or self-denial in order to focus on repentance and consecrating oneself to God. While water has a strong spiritual significance in the Christian tradition as a gift of God, around the entire globe, human misuse and pollution threaten this essential resource, and billions lack any access to clean water.
The WCC’s Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace will have a regional focus on the North America region in 2021. Accordingly, the 2021 Seven Weeks for Water takes us on a pilgrimage of water justice in North America. We will explore globally familiar places: Flint, Michigan, representative of the many American cities with drinking water contaminated by lead; Standing Rock, where the Dakota Sioux have successfully fought the destruction of sacred waters by the Keystone Pipeline, and the Navajo Nation, where lack of water for handwashing has heightened the toll of the COVID pandemic in the Southwest. We will also explore other less storied places where we search for water justice from the verdant valleys of California to the salmon streams of the Pacific Northwest. Our guides are theologians and water justice activists from diverse faith traditions.
The reflections show that North America faces diverse water issues:
- securing clean water for handwashing to protect us from COVID-19 and other diseases;
- battling to rid Flint and other American cities from the scourge of lead contaminated drinking water;
- assuring salmon and other freshwater fish have water in which to swim;
- protecting underground sources of drinking water from contamination by agriculture and oil and natural gas fracking;
- preventing depletion of groundwater by excessive agriculture withdrawals that threaten the availability of groundwater for future generations;
- struggling to prevent destruction of sacred waters to transport fossil fuels that should stay in the ground, as the droughts induced by greenhouse gas emissions that afflict the West become more frequent and severe;
- removing those dams that unnecessarily destroy rivers as well as the creatures who depend upon them, while making modest contributions at best to local economies, and
- denouncing the commodification of water to the point that speculators now trade in water futures on Wall Street as the ultimate abuse of God’s gift to life.