On 22 March, World Water Day, CONIC, Christian Aid and CREAS launched an online training course for faith communities in Brazil: ‘Water for Life. The idea for this came from the Alternative World Water Forum 2018.
Water is part of the Creation, and as such, it needs to be protected and cared for, like all living beings; there is no possibility of life without water, therefore, the protection of springs, rivers, glaciers, seas, mineral water sources and aquifers should be understood by Christians as a consequence of a coherent practice of their faith in Jesus Christ— Pastor Romi Benke, General Secretary of CONIC.
In Brazil, a country which has 12% of the planet’s water reserves, more than half of the population lacks access to potable water supply. Lack of treated water and sanitation is one of the most extreme forms of inequality. In Oriximiná, in the Amazon region, riverside communities are facing challenges related to contamination of rivers by bauxite mining activity. The river is the main good for communities, which use its water to cook, drink, do laundry, fish, farm and even transport. Since the 1970s, when the bauxite mining started in the region, the water contamination level has been gradually increasing, compromising communities’ livelihood. The local population expresses the various health issues registered and the decrease of fishes, essential for their nourishment. At the same time, communities also express the negligence of public authorities with the issue. Environmental records are carried out by the own mining company, with no independent assessment. The company takes no further responsibility for what is happening with the communities.
This case and others will be analysed in the training. The course has an online format and offers theological, political and technical content to help faith-based organizations to develop local advocacy strategies. 95 participants, mostly women, from 31 different churches and faith communities from various Brazilian regions signed up for the course, in which they can access, from March 22nd to July 5th, 2019, audio-visual contents that address the problem of the lack of access to water from a perspective of faith and justice. In the first module, an introduction to the importance of water sources control for global inequality is approached. The presence of private multinational companies, who either monopolize control over basins or cause their contamination, is one of the main factors placing challenges for populations wellbeing. Organisations such as the Pro-Indigenous Commission, which produced a case study about the situation above in Oriximiná, have contributed with short videos and texts for the course.
“With this training we hope to orientate churches and communities, in partnership with organizations at a regional and global level, to strengthen the prophetic voices of faith actors in the denunciation of socio-environmental inequality and in favour of the right of vulnerable communities and populations to access water resources in dignity, justice and equality”, stated Sheila Tanaka, coordinator of this initiative at Christian Aid Brazil.
“‘Water for Life’ aims to train and empower leaders, in Brazil and across Latin America who will help their communities to defend and extend their rights to water and thus combat poverty and inequality”, emphasized Horacio Mesones, executive director of CREAS.
Our hope is in a new heaven and a new earth that God will give us, in which there will be no hunger nor thirst; and when we contaminate the waters with agrochemicals, kill the rivers, or allow mining that destroys the environment, and privatize drinking water, we are attacking the love of God.— Pastor Romi Benke, referring to water’s essential role in baptism