I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.
Matthew 25:35, NRSV
Every day 10,000-20,000 children globally die from diarrhea, cholera, and other water-related diseases (MCC video Water Works); 1 billion people in the world do not have safe drinking water (www.mcc.org); 40 percent of the world's people face serious water shortages, and it is predicted that two-thirds of the world's people will live in "water-stressed countries" by 2025 (BBC News). The verse from Matthew 25 echoes loudly in light of these facts. An important part of intentional peacemaking is to provide relief from lack of clean water and the knowledge and tools for people to develop sustainable lifestyles in the face of disasters and other causes of water shortages.
In his book "Shalom: The Bible's Word for Salvation, Justice, and Peace" (Faith and Life Press, 1987) Perry Yoder describes the biblical idea of shalom as including three broad emphases: material well-being (health, security, prosperity), right relationships, and moral rightness (honesty, ethical behavior, straightforwardness). All of these can be summed up by saying that "shalom defines how things should be" (p.21) and the job of intentional peacemaking (shalom-making) as "making things as they ought to be."
Thinking of peacemaking as "making things as they ought to be" is a powerful idea. It affirms the active nature of peace that we have been focusing on for several months; that is, intentional peacemaking. Also, making things as they ought to be implies both immediate relief from need and transforming situations to allow and empower people to provide for themselves and others. Transformation may take the form of education and development or it may take the form of changing unjust structures and systems that cause or contribute to things not being as they ought to be. Making things as they ought to be implies that we recognize ways in which we may be contributing to the need of others directly or indirectly and what we can do to relieve or remove the need.
The need of many of the world's people for adequate water is basic. While a person can live for several weeks without food, they can live only 3-4 days without water. There are many ways that we can be involved in giving drink to the thirsty. For many of us the starting point is to be more aware and informed about the issue of water shortage. Some sources for information are:
There are really two basic problems related to the adequate supply of clean water. Water shortages occur locally due to causes such as droughts, floods, earthquakes, and violent conflict. In addition, a global shortage is predicted since the amount of water available on the Earth is fixed, while the world's population is growing. One thing is certain, whenever there is not sufficient clean water for a person's health and well-being things are not as they should be!
Local, possibly temporary, water shortages call for relief in the form of supplying water from remote locations to those in need. As the global supply shrinks (relative to population) this will be more difficult and will require conservation in areas where there is no local shortage. Other forms of immediate assistance such as proper drugs and medical care are also needed. It is also important to work with people in areas that are experiencing water shortage or prone to water shortages to develop ways to increase the local supply. Building cisterns to capture rain water, drilling wells, and other forms of development can help alleviate future shortages. Promoting conservation, both in water-scarce areas and in non-water-scarce areas will help to increase the overall supply of clean water globally.
Those who live in developed nations can begin taking action by conserving water. According to BBC News "global water use has tripled since 1950 and has been increasing faster than the world's population. Much of the water extracted ends up wasted." Other actions include supporting relief and development activities that focus on water shortages. The following are some ways to become involved:
While there may not be a direct link between running your lawn sprinkler on a hot, dry summer day and water shortage in Africa, South America or other parts of the world, it is part of intentional peacemaking to use the resources which God has given us as they "ought to be" used. We must use water only as needed, take care not to pollute it, teach others how to capture and use it, and share it as we are able.