river in Sao Paulo state Brazil

The Ribeira de Iguape is the largest river in Brazil's São Paulo State, 470kms long and is unusual in the region because it has no dams on it, but dams are planned here. Organised opposition to the dams has stopped a dam being built at Tijuco Alto already, and is actively opposed to the building of another three proposed dams in the area.


Inspired by the theme "Water: God's Gift, a Right of Humans and Creatures, and a Common Good,” speakers shared insights about the need for developing an "ethics of care,” a condition for maintaining life cycles on Earth.

Roman Catholic priest Elias Wolff, from the Ecumenical and Interreligious Nucleus of the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná and a member of the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Water Network (WCC-EWN) reference group, reminded the participants about the inspiration from the WCC-EWN and the creation of such a network in Brazil.

“Since 2005, the National Council of Churches of Brazil (CONIC) has been advocating in favor of the recognition of water as a public good and a human right,” he said.

The first step in this process was the Ecumenical Declaration on Water, signed by CONIC, the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil, the Swiss Confederation of Evangelical Churches, the Conference of Bishops of Switzerland and the National Justice and Peace Commission of Switzerland.

This group was also among the partners and networks that worked for the creation of the WCC-EWN at the WCC’s 9th Assembly, held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 2006.

“CONIC has been responsible for increasing the ecumenical engagement on water justice in Brazil. Highlights of this involvement include, in 2016, the Ecumenical Fraternity Campaign’s theme ‘Our Common Home, Our Responsibility’ and the interreligious participation in the Alternative World Water Forum in 2018,” added Wolff.

On a pre-recorded video message shared during the event, Leonardo Boff, Brazilian theologian and one of the founders of Liberation Theology, praised the creation of the network.

“The situation in Brazil is quite unique. We have so many abundant sources of water, but we still lack a culture of caring for this valuable resource,” he said. “The big question: is water a source of life or a source of profit? Our struggle is to say it out loud: water is a natural, vital, irreplaceable, and common good. It belongs to life. And life can’t be sold as a commodity in the market.”

From Geneva, Switzerland, Dinesh Suna, coordinator of WCC-EWN welcomed the initiative. “The true nature of a network is its ownership by the local constituencies", he said. "The EWN Brazil chapter is a first of its kind and there will be many more such networks in the future. To this end, the WCC-EWN is committed to supporting the struggle for water justice by EWN Brazil”, added Suna.

Watch the recording of the online launch event (in Portuguese)