Lack of sanitation in Kibera, Nairobi, Africa's largest slum.

“We are reflecting here on a subject that we do not usually want to discuss: toilets,” said Temple. “It is not something that features in our table discussions but today we reflect on it as we mark World Toilet Day with the theme ‘Sustainable Sanitation and Climate Change.’ ”

More than 4.2 billion people are living without access to safely managed sanitation.

“Most people take sanitation—and particularly toilets—for granted,” said Temple. “You know, my friends, the movement of our bowels is a natural phenomenon.”

There are many people who are forced to defecate in the open, and many who can only do so under the cover of darkness at night. “They cannot face the embarrassment of open defecation, yet it is the only option open to them,” said Temple. “Somebody may have defecated upstream, and that same water is collected by people who live downstream, and they are open to diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, etc.”

Temple 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?”

A special hymn, sung by Terry MacArthur, closed the service with the words: “God of love, we take for granted, common places that we use. We have bathrooms, we have washrooms, we have restrooms, we have loos. We may smile at what we’re singing, but we would not want to be left without these common places that bring health and dignity.”

On 19 November, the Jeypore Evangelical Lutheran Church in India, National Council of Churches in India, and World Council of Churches will participate in a webinar to discuss sanitation for all, and its linkages to climate change, stigma and taboo related to casteism in India.  

Resources of the United Nations for the World Toilet Day

Click below to listen to "God of Love, We Take for Granted" sung by Terry MacArthur and the video recording of Bishop Arnold Temple's message. 

Audio file