Bishop Arnold Temple, chairperson of World Council of Churches (WCC) Ecumenical Water Network and president of All Africa Conference of Churches, asked: “Is it not blatant injustice that, in our world today, people are allowed to go without the ability of emptying their stomachs with dignity and compromise their health? How can we claim to be Christians if we shut our eyes to the blatant injustice around us?”
Rev. Asir Ebenezer, general secretary of National Council of Churches in India, said: “Unfortunately, the faith communities worldwide, but particularly in India have approached the issue of sanitation and toilets in the wrong way, by relating it to something sacrilegious and impure and thereby have relegated it to an untouchable sphere. Also by their indifference to the plight of sanitation workers, indirectly, they perpetuate untouchability and caste-based discrimination on the basis of occupation and descent.”
Bezwada Wilson, convener of Sanitation Workers’ Movement, challenged the participants by saying: “I was born in a scavenger community. But I was perplexed how people are normalising an abnormal situation. We consider human beings as the image of God and how can we be indifferent to the fact that the ‘image of God’ is carrying human excreta manually?”
Dinesh Suna, coordinator of the WCC Ecumenical Water Network, gave a global perspective of World Toilet Day, observed earlier in November, by highlighting the connection between sustainable sanitation and climate change.
While responding to the question of dignified sanitation, he said, “technology can only make the life of the sanitary workers less risky. However, as long as sanitary work is linked with casteism and patriarchy, there is no dignity for the sanitary workers. Therefore, technology, political will, behavioural changes have to go hand-in-hand to promote sustainable and dignified sanitation for all.”
The webinar was moderated by Mr Angelious Michael of Jeypore Evangelical Lutheran Church, one of the co-organisers of the event.