When Fernando Enns thinks of water in a German context, he is reminded of thousands and thousands of refugees who have come to the country fleeing the conflict in Syria.
“Welcoming these refugees, you realize the power that water has exerted in their journey to the shores where we should offer a welcome,” says Professor Enns, director of Peace Church Theology at the University of Hamburg.
The power water has for these people fleeing conflict and dangers offers its own perils, as find the refugees who transit through Greece on their way north.
Water’s might is epitomized in the tragic image of Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy who drowned in 2015 trying to make it from Turkey to Greece, says Enns.
He continues, “The refugees are taking the only course available to them to escape from the travail of conflict and hopelessness, to a place with the chance of a better life.”
“The perils they face in the turbulent seas are an indicator of the mighty power of water,” says the Mennonite theologian who was born in Brazil and moved to Germany at the age of 10.
In 2016, the World Council of Churches’ (WCC) Ecumenical Water Network’s (EWN) annual Seven Weeks for Water started as usual at the beginning of Lent.
It is tied to the WCC’s Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace and its 2016 regional focus on the Middle East, with specific reference to Palestine.
A member of the WCC’s Central Committee and co-moderator of the WCC’s Reference Group on the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace, Enns says that the refugees crossing the waters, often in flimsy craft, leave one threat to find yet another on their hopeful path to a better life.
“The world has to learn to coexist with water because we humans do not possess water. Water is part of the web of life,” says the Peace Church theologian.
He observes, “To misuse the power of water for discriminating against people – as is the case in the occupied territories of Palestine – is a sin!”
This ambivalence that people have in regard to water challenges humanity as we learn to harness natural resources in a sustainable way, asserts Enns. Water is a gift of God that benefits all, and we are called to make use of it in a responsible manner.
Seven Weeks for Water: www.oikoumene.org/7-weeks-for-water
The Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace: www.oikoumene.org/pilgrimage