How many times a day do I turn on the faucet in the kitchen or bathroom to fill a glass, wash my hands, brush my teeth, or fill a pot with water to cook pasta? How many times a day do I flush a toilet? How many times a day do I stop and think about the privilege of my easy access to clean, potable water? The answer to the former questions is “many,” the answer to the latter is “too few.”
This Sunday, March 22nd is World Water Day. This year’s World Water Day also marks the conclusion of the UN-Water’s Decade for Action “Water for Life.” Last week, while in New York City with the ELCA Young Adult Cohort attending theUnited Nations 59th Commission on the Status of Women (UN CSW) I took some time to explore an exhibit in the entrance hall of United Nations Headquarters commemorating the progress of the Decade for Action and looking ahead to the unmet needs for water access and sanitation around the world that call for action in the future.
Knowing I would have the opportunity to share both my experience at the UN CSW and call attention to World Water Day through the ELCA World Hunger blog, I made sure to pick up the exhibit brochure and snap some photos of the exhibit on my phone. Now, a week removed from the throes of the UN CSW and my perusal of the “Water for Life: Voices” exhibit, I realize that my experience in New York, the opportunity to research and promote World Water Day, and my position with ELCA World Hunger aren’t just happy, coincidental life experiences, but that working for gender justice, water rights, and solutions to hunger and poverty are inextricably linked. Women bear much of the burden for collecting water for their families in Sub-Saharan Africa and other areas of the world. The many hours women and girls spend collecting water are hours not spent in school or participating in economic activity, earning money or growing food to feed their families, or contributing to their community.
Over the summer, thousands of youth will converge on Detroit, Michigan for the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering. ELCA World Hunger’s Walk for Water at the gathering has a goal to raise $500,000 through fundraising efforts, to be matched dollar by dollar through the gift of very generous donors. If we meet our goal, $1 million of water-related projects will be funded around the world. You can read about ELCA World Hunger’s Walk for Water, including the types of projects the initiative will fund, fundraising ideas, and statistics about the water crisis, at www.ELCA.org/walk4water.
A point that was raised frequently at the UN Commission on the Status of Women is that, too often, when we throw phrases like “internationally” or “around the world” out into conversation, we forget that the United States is included. At UN CSW this was usually in regards to oppression and discrimination against women; no nation in the world, the United States included, has succeeded in establishing gender equality in legislation, in sentiment or in practice.
The same is true of the water crisis. Because of the effects of climate change, failing economies, or corporate negligence, there are people in the United States who would answer the questions I posed at the outset of this post rather differently. In fact, right in the ELCA Youth Gathering’s backyard are people experiencing the effects of a water crisis – the Detroit water shut-offs. Ryan Cumming, Director for Hunger Education, drew attention to this problem back in August in his post “Myths and Realities about Water Shutoffs in Detroit.” Water shutoffs continue to loom in Detroit, even as the city and suburbs justapproved an increase in water utility rates.
As Lutherans, we proclaim that all people, all around the world, are created in the image of God, are privy to equal rights and protection and inherent dignity. Gender justice affirms that no one should suffer discrimination, oppression, or exploitation on account of their sex or gender. Working to end hunger and poverty affirms that we live in a world of abundance that has been perverted by broken relationships and greed. The Water for Live: Voices Exhibition brochure voices invites visitors to the exhibit to add their voice to those featured because “humankind is notable for its rich diversity; yet we are all the same in our need for water and sanitation.”
This World Water Day, I invite you to add your voice with mine in prayers for strength for my sisters around the world who walk for water each day and the mothers who struggle to feed their families, prayers of rejoicing for the progress made during the Decade for Action and potential impact through ELCA World Hunger’s Walk for Water, and mindful prayers of thanksgiving for the life-giving gift of water…
We pray for people who don’t have access to clean water to drink. We pray for people who must walk long distances to collect water. We pray for people, especially children, who face disease and death because of unclean water. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
We pray for areas of our world impacted by drought and chronic water insecurity. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
We pray for areas of our world that are impacted by frequent floods, severe storms and other natural disasters. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
We give you thanks that through water and the Holy Spirit you give us new birth, cleanse us from sin, and raise us to eternal life. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
Prayer & Litany for World Water Day written by Pastor Annie Edison-Albright of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.
Program Assistant, ELCA World Hunger
Lutheran Volunteer Corps