The World Council of Churches (WCC) is casting out its bottled water and has joined the Blue Communities Project.
Maude Barlow, co-founder of the Blue Planet Project, on 25 October awarded the WCC a “blue community certificate” and launched tap-based public water fountains at the Ecumenical Centre along with WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit.
As chairperson of the Council of Canadians and chair of the Washington, DC-based Food and Water Watch she delivered a keynote address at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva calling for humanity to come together to protect the earth’s water heritage and share it more equally.
In his welcome Tveit said, “We want to lead by example. We want to be a member of this community, with a programme that is not only saying, but also doing it. Let us care for this day as a gift from God.”
Barlow chose words from the August 2015 report of the WCC’s Ecumenical Water Network (EWN) which she said expressed her thoughts perfectly.
“Foremost among the most important issues of justice and peace are the critical issues of eco-justice, of our proper relationship as people of faith to God’s creation and to each other, given our utter and complete dependence on ecological integrity of the earth.
“Protecting water and assuring just distribution of this life-giving resource is among the most critical of eco-justice issues,” she asserted.
People from Palestine, Jordan, Israel, India, Sweden, Canada and Switzerland read messages of support and calls for action via Skype.
A group of children symbolically cast out the water bottles as the choir sang, “Thank you God for water and life.”
Barlow said, “Believe it or not, we are facing a water crisis.”
She warned the world is running out of accessible water, citing the UN report on World Water Day 2016 showing the demand for water will increase by 55 percent in the next 15 years and, by that time, water resources will only reach 60 percent of world demand.
It is not only Africa, India, the Middle East and Australia that are in crisis, but so are “water-rich” countries, such as Canada, the Blue Planet Project founder said.
She referred to China, where since 1990, more than half of the rivers have disappeared and Brazil which faces massive droughts in part due to the destruction of the Amazon.
“Lack of clean water kills more children than all the forms of violence, including war,” said Barlow.
Tveit explained that the three basic criteria of becoming a blue community are: recognizing water as a human right; saying “no” to the sale of bottled water in places where tap water is safe to drink; and promoting publicly-financed, owned and operated drinking water and waste water treatment services.
He said that over the past decade, through the EWN, the WCC has brought the voice of the faith communities into the global discourses on the human right to water and sanitation, working in close collaboration with the UN mechanisms related to the right to water. Further, the World Council of Churches has had very close cooperation with the Roman Catholic Church and other churches that are not members of the WCC.