When the World Council of Churches (WCC) joined the Blue Communities Project on 25 October, water and eco-justice advocates from around the world offered congratulations, while at the same time urging WCC member churches to join the quest for global water and sanitation rights.
Maude Barlow, co-founder of the Blue Planet Project, awarded the WCC a “blue community certificate” on 25 October, noting the WCC could potentially reach more than 500 million Christians worldwide in advocating the right to access water and sanitation.
Rev. Dr Martin Junge, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) said, “You are helping us to add coherence to our quest for ecological justice.”
He added, “Climate justice is an issue of inter-generational justice,” and young people in the LWF have helped raise awareness of climate justice, ecology and water rights.
Isaiah Toroitich, global advocacy and policy coordinator of the ACT Alliance, on behalf of ACT Alliance general secretary John Nduna, said the human right to water and sanitation needs particular protection because it is heavily challenged and under threat.
Dr Rajendra Singh, “the water man of India,” said in a video call, “In the 21st century water commercialization is creating a disaster. This is a big threat for this century.”
Singh’s stance was supported by David Boys, deputy general secretary of Public Services International (PSI), who said PSI was been part of the WCC’s Ecumenical Water Network since its inception.
“In Geneva it is easy to defend access and this is where your direction and daily work is going to be important…We have to recognize there are groups working against social justice… We have to make this a political topic then we can turn many more cities into blue communities,” said Boys.
Gidon Bromberg, an Israeli who is a co-director of EcoPeace/Friends of Earth Middle East, said, “We feel water is being held hostage by the political process particularly by the Oslo (peace) Accords.” He said that for the last 22 years all Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations have been held hostage to the all-or-nothing approach, and that solving water issues would benefit all.
Jordanian Munqeth Mehyar, a co-director of EcoPeace, explained that the Jordan River is a shared eco-system bordering Jordan, Palestine and Israel and is linked to Syria which has major control of the key tributary to the river.
Nader Al-Khateeb, a Palestinian and a co-director of EcoPeace, said, “Nobody should be denied access to water. It is illegal and unfair. We need to fairly share resources to avoid future conflicts.”
He said the Middle East is “blessed with sunshine” which can help the use of renewables for water desalination “instead of fighting over limited resources.”
Karin Lexen, director of World Water Week for the Stockholm International Water Institute, said, “Access to reliable water is vital for human health and dignity,” while noting that 90 percent of disasters in the world are water related.
Adam Koniuszewski, chief operating officer of Green Cross International, lauded the WCC for “showing great leadership at a time when it was not easy to talk about water.”
Heinz Bichsel, head of ecumenical affairs, mission, international cooperation and migration of the Reformed Churches Berne-Jura-Solothurn congratulated the WCC.
“As a church, we are very happy that many churches, organizations, institutions and cities are considering adoption or have already accepted the commitment as Blue Communities in Switzerland.” Bichsel cited the cities of Berne and St Galen, along with their universities and other congregations.