Cathedrals and churches on four continents have come together to raise awareness and activism about water by launching the JustWater website. It’s an international initiative organised by St George's Cathedral (Cape Town); St Paul's Cathedral (London); St Paul's Cathedral (Melbourne); and Trinity Church Wall Street (New York). The project aims to draw attention to the issues around water - whether these challenges are flooding, drought, rising tides or access to fresh water and sanitation. The Primate of Southern Africa, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, is the keynote speaker at the launch of the initiative tonight (Monday) in London.
In the coming weeks, major events are scheduled to coincide with the season of Lent and around UN World Water Day on 22 March 2017 to support social justice efforts on water issues. Canon Heather Patacca, Precentor of St Paul's Cathedral Melbourne, said “For many of us access to fresh water is something we take for granted unlike those who walk half a day to draw water from a well or stream. Nothing exists without water. Water raises issues of justice and equity but looks different in each local context.”
JustWater is designed to be a free and open resource to help equip community and church leaders as advocates for water justice. The project is intended to grow to include other organisations that wish to participate, bringing together business, science, religion and the arts to help deepen understanding and build a shared community for action. Events and outcomes from the project will be highlighted on the new website as well as on social media using the hashtag #justwater17.
The Very Revd David Ison, Dean of St Paul's Cathedral London, said 'How we deal with water shows how much we value one another. The church working around the world in partnership, to share resources and raise awareness of water-related issues, is a sign of how humanity can achieve together for the benefit of all what we cannot do on our own.'
The Director of St Paul's Institute, which is supporting the programme, Barbara Ridpath, expressed the hope that it would encourage other congregations around the world to do something for World Water Day in March or to undertake one of the Lenten studies that are available: “The entire intention of the programme is twofold: firstly, to leverage resources so that more cathedrals and churches can engage without ‘reinventing the wheel,’ adapting the programme to their locally specific issues around water, and secondly, to demonstrate that we can have greater impact when we speak with one voice.”
On Monday night’s launch in London, Archbishop Thabo is due to say that in Cape Town, as a result of diminished rainfall over the past year, the dams supplying water for its metropolitan area are only 29 percent full, with 3 months’ supply left: “Our water crisis has had the effect of concentrating my mind on how precious water is and on how devastating the effects of scarcity can be.”