Christian Perspectives on Water – local and global challenges in times of scarcity and plenty

The latest edition of the Redcliffe journal encounters is now out, and you can read the articles here (slides accompanying the articles are also available):-

http://www.redcliffe.org/SpecialistCentres/EncountersMissionJournal/vw/1/ItemID/114

The text of my editorial is set out below.

A warm welcome to this edition of encounters, focused around the theme of water. A number of aspects relating to water are considered in contemporary local and global contexts, and what clearly emerges is the need to engage critically (and missionally) with the challenges presented by this most precious of resources.

Water is the fountain of life – we can’t live without it, and we can’t seemingly manage too
much of it. This century will see increasing challenges of shortage and saturation, droughts and floods. Water is the bringer of life for all, yet a deadly enemy for many. In an unequal world where water resources will increasingly become a trigger point for conflict, how should Christians engage with the challenges of development, sanitation, climate change and political and social unrest? What does the Bible have to say? What should our Christian mandate be in caring for our global neighbours experiencing the sharp-end of water-related problems? What might some of the solutions be?

The annual Redcliffe College/John Ray Initiative (JRI) Environment Day conference, held
last March in partnership with tearfund and Water Aid, provided thought-provoking talks and interactive seminars addressing some of these issues, as well as first-hand accounts of how people in the Global South, in particular, are being impacted by water concerns today.

The three main talks that day have now been transcribed and edited versions below have been reproduced for this edition of encounters.

The first article by Frank Greaves and Sue Yardley (tearfund advisers) takes a snapshot of
the global situation, before focusing on aspects of sanitation and policy, in the context of
Tearfund’s WASH programme. One of the interesting (and tragic!) aspects of water is that so much of the physical world is made of water, and yet only a tiny fraction of it is practically available to us for drinking and for agriculture. With so much of the stuff around, scarcity can hardly be the culprit, and yet it is the ‘scarcity’ of fresh water that fuels so much conflict over the scramble for this resource. Ironically, we are deluged with it at times, without being able to contain the same. Tearfund, and others, are employing innovative techniques and practices in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, as part of their mission to help communities become more healthy and self-sufficient in their daily use of water.

In the second article, Dr John Bimson takes us through a brief tour of the Old Testament
‘water-scape’. It is important to note how significant water was for the biblical Hebrews; the
significance of this life-giving and life-sustaining liquid was given a theological meaning by
Jesus in those well-known words in John’s Gospel.

The third article from the Conference is a fascinating case study of two projects
geographically-close together in rural Tanzania. Barbara Brighouse provides a critical
analysis of the successes, and failures, of the water projects she has been involved in,
sometimes with surprising results. If one ever doubts how vital water is to rural villagers, then the crocodile story shows that for the poor, it really is a matter of life and death.
Please note that these three talks have accompanying slides, which illustrate (and make
sense of!) the content of the articles, so, if you can, do read these in tandem with the
pictures – it will help!

The last two articles are contributions from two prolific bloggers, Jeremy Williams (Make
Wealth History) and Steve Moreby (Next Starfish), and I have enjoyed following their
creative and absorbing array of writing topics. In his article Jeremy illustrates the scale of the challenge required to contain the ever-advancing Saharan desert, whilst providing biblical examples of the importance of trees in the biblical context. Steve’s appeal is a challenge to the Christian community not to neglect the environmental duty to look after precious resources. Less material consumption and better stewardship should be key markers of our love for God and all that He has made.

This is mission, perhaps not as we know it, but the issues raised here inextricably-link the
material world with human existence. They serve to remind us again of that critical question; ‘who is my neighbour?’ How do you answer that, and what are the implications for you personally, and your work?

We look forward to receiving your feedback, so please join in the conversation by giving us
your critiques, comments and questions!

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