The Water of Baptism, The Water of Life - Anglican Church


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The Water of Baptism, The Water of Life - Anglican Church

  1. 1. The Water of Baptism, The Water of LifeStudy Papers on the Environment, Poverty, and Sustainable Development, No. 2 Prepared by the Revd Canon Jeff Golliher, Ph.D.Program Associate for the Environment and Sustainable Development The Office of the Anglican Observer at the United Nations Archdeacon Taimalelagi F. Tuatagaloa-Matalavea The Anglican Observer at the UN 2005
  2. 2. Water is basic human right, a survival need, and much amounts to planning for seven generations by default,more. As Christians, we commit ourselves through their inheritance passed on in the form of salvageablethe water of baptism to resist evil and affirm new life remains. Do we not know what an emergency alarmin Christ as well as our responsibilities to the whole sounds like?human community, which, in practice, must includethe ecological integrity of the web of life. Water A great deal of attention internationally has beensymbolizes the possibility of rebirth, empowerment, given to water pollution and scarcity over the lastand the hope of a renewed creation. Water is a decade and much hopeful work is being accomplishedprimordial manifestation of the sacred on earth. The in all areas of sustainable development andsacred is about survival -- real survival for the whole environmental protection, this cannot balance thebody of life, which is the reason religious traditions, death and despair for increasing numbers of peopleespecially those of indigenous peoples, have valued it without food and safe water, or any water. The waterso highly. The substance of water itself, the natural crisis is worsening, yet he crossroads before us todaydesign of watersheds, the ocean currents, and the is not one of choosing hope or pessimism in the facecycles of rainfall express this spiritual meaning though of an overwhelming challenge. Nor does ittheir ecological properties of cleansing and healing compromise our strong commitment to the visionthe planet as a whole. Yet, we continue to destroy and aims of the United Nations. It is more urgentwatersheds, bleach coral reefs, and over fish the than ever that we learn the lessons of the past andoceans, while poisoning what remains of a well that is examine more closely what we are doing now in therunning dry. awareness of the ecological reality of the present time. The global scarcity and condition of freshwater and From the standpoint of the United Nations, andsanitation must be seen with the deepest possible particularly in the context of water, the Dublinconcern. Projections indicate that nearly forty Principles of the 1992 International Conference onpercent of the world’s people will suffer from severe Water and the Environment seem just as promisingwater scarcity within a decade. Water has been and problematic as they did a decade ago: (l)identified by the United Nations as one of five “freshwater is a finite and vulnerable resource,interrelated focus areas (WEHAB) for sustainable essential to sustain life ...”; (2) “water developmentdevelopment (with energy, health, agriculture, and and management should be base on a participatorybiodiversity). Improvements in the condition of approach ... at all levels”; (3) “women play a centralwater and sanitation had a prominent place in the part in provision, management, and safeguarding ofdeliberations of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio and water”; (4), “water has an economic value ... andits plan for action known as “Agenda 21,” and more should be recognized as an economic good.” Therecently at the Millennium Summit (2002) in New phrasing “essential to sustain life,” which implies thatYork and the World Summit on Sustainable water is a basic prerequisite of the healthy ofDevelopment in Johannesburg (August, 2002). The functioning of all ecosystems, actually understates itscurrent goal agreed upon by the world’s nations at the significance. The fourth principle, concerning water’sUN is to halve the number of people without safe economic value, has opened the door to privatizationdrinking water and sanitation by 2015. But now, and commoditization, as well as corruption inaccording to the World Water Report, that goal is potential markets, which marginalizes the voices ofalready well beyond reach. women and whole communities in most of the world. It is apparent that we have entered, headlong, the The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is acrisis that we had hoped decades of international powerful tool for declaring, maintaining, and ensuringpolicymaking would help us avoid. Evidence relating the fundamental right to water, which must beto energy, health, agriculture, and biodiversity, in pursued more forcefully. Yet the fact that this mustcombination with low financial investment in be done suggests that our commonsense has beensustainable development projects, points to the same muddled by factors outside normal practical andconclusion. If present trends continue, then several moral reasoning. Obviously, water is "essential tofuture generations will be born before sufficient sustain life." Without it, life would not exist. Thefreshwater will be available to the majority of the same can be said for healthy food and breathable’s people, and possibly not even then -- which The extent to which water must be claimed as a
  3. 3. fundamental right (even more a “need”) is the to apply commonsense, instead of elevating greed asmeasure of how much that birthright has already been the predominant organizing principle in our commonlost and our ecological and spiritual understanding life. Moreover, the sacred and the ecological are sodiminished. The extent to which we believe this bound together in the web of life that their separationfundamental right can be genuinely gained on the in our consciousness is the seed of exploitation andbasis of water’s economic value is the measure of how colonial domination, regardless of the outward form itmuch our birthright has, in effect, already been given may take. Thomas Berry, whose prophetic voice/ taken away. Clearly, something is missing in the weaves seamlessly with profound commonsense,prevailing model of sustainable development. recently described the outcome of this exploitation by saying that we are changing the chemistry of the The issues of privatization, the large-scale ownership biosphere. It is simply not enough to believe that thisof water, and more broadly, water as “an economic fact will affect our lives sometime in the future. Thegood,” have for some time been highly contentious chemistry of our bodies is changing with the earth’ssubjects on the international scene. Private industry now -- of course, it always has because the earth’shas tremendous resources which can help solve the body, our bodies, and Christ’s body are allwater crisis. However, the solutions we seek must be interconnected.understood in humanitarian, ecological, spiritual, aswell as economic contexts. It is no secret that a large As this happens, policymakers focus their attentionpart of the crisis we have entered is a result of the on the need to regulate the water industry and itsrejection of sustainability, equity, the universality of markets, which could be helpful, but does little tohuman rights, and the common good by powerful address the real questions.economic interests who favor competition to decidewho will win and lose in wars for dwindling resources. * What does it mean when water is so scarce that ourOne must wonder if this colonial strategy informed primary symbol of renewal is no longer available?the thinking of the so-called “Brussels group,” whichincluded the United States, Britain, Germany, * What does it mean when water is so contaminated,Belgium, Italy, France, and the Netherlands. As i.e., poisoned, that its primordial capacity to heal hasreported by the New Scientist and later by Huey been lost?Johnson of the Resource Renewal Institute in the UNChronicle (2002), representatives of the Brussels *What kind of empowerment is proclaimed when thegroup met secretly in 1971 to undermine the first water of baptism must be purchased from those whoConference on the Human Environment in “own” it?Stockholm. And today, we look ahead only a decadeto for see nearly half the world’s people without The deteriorating condition of freshwater across thesufficient water! planet threatens the integrity of religious life as a whole and erodes our ability to meet other crises in People like Rene Dubos and Barbara Ward -- to the present and future. It is critical that we, as faithfulname only two of many from the time when the UN Christians, rethink the priorities and problems infirst took up the ecological crisis -- knew that we need sustainable development strategies concerning water -to reconsider our economic values. They also - as well as energy, food, health, and biodiversity. Therecognized that the present crisis will not be solved Universal Declaration of Human Rights can besimply by directing more finances to specific problem strengthened in this regard by the collective voicesareas, as urgently as they are needed. Economic and actions of all parties. As NGOs representing thegrowth can no longer be seen as the only measure of world’s religions, we must organize ourselves again, atdevelopment. To continue down that road will all levels, in the spirit of the World Parliament ofensure that water will become a commodity, rather Religions and the Assisi Declarations, and take action.than a right and an outward of the sacramental nature There is nothing to lose that hasn’t already been lost,of life. To marginalize the majority of the world’s or threatens to be, and everything to gain.people from decisions about the ownership of waterand access to it also marginalizes us from the mostfundamental decisions of life, livelihood, and basicspiritual values. Clearly we must redouble our efforts
  4. 4. Faacts About Water Suggested Reading• Of the total volume of water on earth, 97% is seawater, Berry, Thomas (1988) The Dream of the Earth. Sierra 2% is frozen in polar caps, and 1% is underground, in Club Books, San Francisco. lakes, and in rivers. Hamilton, L.S. (ed.) (1993) Ethics, Religion, and• Today, 230 million people in 26 countries live in scarce Biodiversity: Relations Between Conservation and water conditions. Cultural Values. The White Horse Press, Cambridge.• The average resident of the United States uses 70 times Hillman, James (1988) Cosmology for Soul: From more water than a person in Ghana. Universe to Cosmos. In: Cosmos Life Religion: Beyond Humanism. Tenri University Press, Tenri.• Two thirds of Chinas cities today are short of water. Posey, Darrell (ed.) (1999) Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity... The United Nations Environmental• Seawater is currently entering Israels freshwater Program, Nairobi. supplies. It is expected that 50% of its freshwater wells will be too salty for agriculture by the year 2020. Roszak, Theodore (1992) The Voice of the Earth. Simon and Schuster, New York.• Since 1990, 40 species of American fish have become extinct. Shiva, Vandana (1993) Monocultures of the Mind: Perspectives on Biodiversity and Biotechnology. Zed• Global water usage has tripled since 1950. Books, Ltd., London and Third World Network, Penang.• An average of 170 dams are built each year around the Tucker, M. and Grim, J. (eds.) (1994) Worldviews and world, although is less than half of those built at mid- Ecology: Religion, Philosophy and the Environment. century. Orbis, Maryknoll.• One-third of the people n the developing world today Office of the Anglican Observer at the United Nations (roughly 1.2 billion) do not have safe water for 815 Second Avenue everyday use. New York, NY 10017 Phone 212-716-6263 Fax 212-687-1336 Email Archdeacon Taimalelagi Fagamalama Tuatagaloa- Matalavea Anglican Observer The Revd Douglas Renegar Executive Director The Revd Canon Jeffrey Golliher, PhD Program Associate for Environment and Sustainable Development Br William Francis Jones, BSG Administrative Assistant