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‘A Thirst for Justice’ in Arundel and Brighton Diocese

‘Water in our World, a Thirst for Justice’ was the theme of the 2010 Arundel and Brighton  diocesan justice and peace assembly, held on Saturday 23 January at the Christian Education Centre in Crawley. Around 150 participants, including diocesan bishop Kieran Conry and local MP Laura Moffatt, reflected upon water stress in many parts of the world and ways in which Catholics in Britain can respond. They were assisted by resource people from CAFOD, Progressio and the Columban Missionary Society and the day was chaired by Fr Kevin Dring of St. Joseph’s parish, Redhill, who once worked as a Fidei Donum priest in Peru.
 
Fr Seán McDonagh, a Columban priest and eco-theologian, who worked with indigenous people in the Philippines for more than 20 years, highlighted the link between climate change and water shortage. Four million people in the world depend on meltwater from glaciers and as these glaciers melt there will be less water. He urged participants to move on from the disappointments of the December UN Copenhagen Conference on climate change and continue lobbying for a global deal which will significantly bring down greenhouse gas emissions. Laura Moffatt MP, who was part of the British delegation in Copenhagen, agreed. “We don’t have the right to give up” she said, referring to the fact that the worst climate impacts will be on the poorest communities in the world’s poorest countries.

Dr Mike Edwards, Climate Change Adviser for CAFOD (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development), suggested that we must consider our personal water use and reflect upon links with poverty and water stress overseas. He took flowers from a vase and suggested that many people who purchase flowers for Valentine’s Day on 14 February don’t consider that many of them come from the global south, tying up scarce water resources that could have been used for growing food. Climate change means that many poor countries in the southern hemisphere will be drier in the future. CAFOD is encouraging its supporters to contact Prime Minister Gordon Brown and urge him to champion emissions cuts in the European Union of 30 per cent at the very least, rising to more than 40 per cent if there’s a good global deal.

David Thomson, Justice and Peace Adviser for Arundel & Brighton, intended for the day “to look at the important issue of water and link into organisations and individuals who are trying to bring about change”.  Ideas that emerged in the final plenary included changes to personal habits, such as turning off the tap while brushing teeth, boiling less water in the kettle and thanking God every time water is used. Parishes will be encouraged to get involved with the Eco-congregation initiative and undertake environmental audits, plus value water as a gift of God’s creation in liturgies.

Baptisms are opportunities to appreciate “living” water and consider Christian commitment to environmental justice. The suggestion that parish grounds could be turned into allotments raised a laugh from some, but participants could be in no doubt at the end of the day that caring for water globally and locally is a major ethical and religious challenge for Christians today.