18 February 2019
Water - Source of conflict
“After oil, may water be the next source of world conflict?”
Some thoughts on the ordinary things that we take for granted
Who owns the water? A few years ago when we were travelling in Northern Italy, I realised that throughout the various villages and alongside the road were taps which were labelled whether the water was fit for drinking or not. Most were for drinking water and welcome in that hot dry summer. Water was made available as a necessity of life for passing travellers, free and fresh, and I suspect it was part of some old law about providing for travellers and recognising that water should be freely available.
After all, what do you do if you are thirsty and need a drink of water in Auckland or in Papatoetoe? Have you ever noticed? If you were thirsty and had not got your purse with you and needed a drink of water, where would you go and what would you do if you were walking around your neighbourhood? Think about it, and then imagine what you would do if you were caught without money in Papatoetoe, Hunters Corner, for whatever reason, without knowing anyone you could contact. Where would you go and what would you do as it started to get dark?
So often we think we are secure and can cope with everything but when we are lost or may have had all our resources stolen from us, or if we are in a strange country know no one and cannot communicate well , we discover how vulnerable we are and how much we rely on our wealth, whether it is in friends and family, money, or the education and skills we have. It is only then we start to get some understanding of real poverty and of our dependance on one another and how something as basic as water needs to be accessible.
When travelling, or even around our neighbourhood, we can be surprised by the kindness of complete strangers who are willing to guide, welcome and give hospitality with no thought of recompense. And often they are in the Good Samaritan tradition , people from different religions and traditions who truly are rescuers and carers who take care of the stranded person. Sadly sometimes of course this is not so,. the stranger is exploited and ripped off and it requires trust to allow others to help
But what about us, our communal hospitality, as a community? At St Johns we have a tap at the back of the church which is often found by thirsty travellers. When the buildings are open we often get asked just for a drink of water and a toilet stop. People stop at a church in expectation that they will not be turned away from those basic human needs.
I’m not sure what Manukau City provides near to us – apart from the toilet block in the parking area – but are there places where free water can be obtained by a passing stranger?. Make a list and see what you come up with.
Water is given to us all, it falls from the sky and flows down the rivers, so does everyone own it and do we share it?
Certainly world wide that is not so. Poor farmers are having their water supplies taken and used for big projects, depriving them of the ability to grow their crops and trees so even their drinking water is scarce. The follow-on effect is that they give up their land and migrate to the cities in search of jobs and food and its downhill all the way from there.
Christian World service , which we support through our donations reports from the World Social forum held recently in Kenya that
“A glass of water could tell a whole story. Like the glass Dunstan Ddamulira was offered recently in the Ugandan countryside. “In my country [Uganda],” Ddamulira says, “you can’t be refused water to drink. So I stopped by at a house in Bijaba village and asked for a glass of water. A girl gave it to me. It was 50 percent mud.” And to prove what he says, he shows a picture he took with his cell phone. It is 50 percent mud. Bijaba, a village of some 150 families in central Uganda, is on the top of a hill. In the rainy season, villagers must fetch water from a water hole they dug to collect run-off rainwater. In the dry season, they must go to a valley some eight kilometres away to find water.
More than 80% of the people affected by the dearth of water live in rural areas. Two-thirds of them are in Asia and over 40% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa falls within this group. As with many other situations of injustice, exploitation and deprivation, the poorest are those most affected. “The lack of water pushes people into the vicious cycle of poverty,” Ddamulira says. In Uganda it is due to a combination of factors, he says: insufficient funding, uneven distribution, lack of technology appropriate to rural areas, government corruption.
For Moshe Tsehlo from Lesotho, the question of governance is one of the major root causes. In his country, five dams allow the government to sell water to South Africa. What happens to the income produced is a mystery, he says, due to the government’s lack of transparency. While the water sources are in rural areas, the latter are not a government priority when it comes to water supply. As a consequence, subsistence agriculture suffers because of the lack of irrigation, and the affected people migrate from villages to cities.”
Christian World service [the New Zealand churches overseas aid agency] campaigns for the right to water and it is thought that after oil, water may be the next source of world conflict.
There are political, ethical and spiritual issues about our use of water and whom has access to it and even whether it can be owned by anyone. Jesus alludes to that in the word play of John 4: 1 – 30. - the story of the meeting of the Samaritan woman at the well
Many biblical stories are about the meetings around wells, the place where everyone had to come because water is essential for life. As we pause and think about what we might take for granted during this season of Lent, maybe we should give thanks for the fresh clean water that is so plentiful in this land. But also let us remember that Jesus gave people more than water to take from the well and told the Samaritan woman that he also gives freely the essential living water of life, his own self..
The water of life, which can flow and loosen the dry soil and bring life to parched places is a constant theme from the dry Middle Eastern lands of the Bible.
Yes, we have water in our green land, but what to we do with it, how do share it with other thirsty travellers? And how do we ensure that it is there for everyone and we do not muddy it or dam it up so others cannot use it?
Lent is time for letting God open our eyes to new perspectives and see through new eyes, being ready to offer a drink of water to those who come to us on these hot and thirsty days.
May you drink deeply of the living water and let it overflow your glass and splash onto the good earth which is waiting in hope of new life and green shoots.
May you drink deeply of the flowing water which sustains us when the journey is hard and the shadows darken the path ahead
May the living Christ be with you as you travel toward Easter
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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