Entries with tag water .

Prayers for our Planet: World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation

Photo Credit: Catholic News Service photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters

Over the past few centuries, human activities have contributed to more environmental degradation than ever before in history. Pollution is raising the planet’s core temperature, tainting what little clean drinking water remains, and rendering air unbreathable. Melting ice caps, ocean acidification, and disappearing coral reefs are just a few more effects of pollution and climate change. Constant wars and irresponsible mining techniques are shaking the earth’s plates causing earthquakes and watershed destruction in the most unnatural places. Corporations and other businesses are aggressively trying to buy and control the remaining clean water sources, and, therefore, effectively 70-80% of your body which is made of water. I know what you’re thinking:  this guy is a downer! And you’re right, this topic is bleak. But it’s a situation that we humans have created, which means it’s a situation that we humans have the power to mend.

There are too many great organizations and individuals who have dedicated their lives to mitigating environmental destruction to mention in one blog post. Therefore, this occasion will focus on the work of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, a trail blazer in the area of environmental protection. Rather than bore you with lengthy paragraphs, though, here is a simple timeline of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s major contributions over the past three decades:

1986 – The 3rd Pre-Synodal Pan-Orthodox Conference in Chambésy expressed concern for the abuse of the natural environment, especially in affluent western societies.

1988 – “Revelation and the Future of Humanity” conference recommends the Ecumenical Patriarchate designate one day each year for the protection of the natural environment.

1989 – Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios publishes first encyclical letter on the environment, proclaiming September 1st the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.

1990 – Monk Gerasimos Mikrayiannanites composes a service of supplication for the environment.

1991 – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew convenes ecological gathering entitled, “Living in the Creation of the Lord.”

1992 – The Orthodox Christian Primates endorse September 1st as a day of pan-Orthodox prayer for the environment.

1992 – The Duke of Edinburgh visits the Ecumenical Patriarchate for an environmental convocation at the Theological School of Halki.

1993 – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew visits the Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace where they sealed a friendship of common purpose and active cooperation for the preservation of the environment.

1994 – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew convenes ecological gathering at the Theological School of Halki on the environment and religious education.

1994 – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew establishes the Religious and Scientific Committee (RSC) for dialogue with Christian confessions, other religious faiths, as well as scientific disciplines.

1995 – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew convenes ecological gathering at the Theological School of Halki on the environment and ethics.

1995 – The RSC, through Ms. Maria Becket’s coordination, hosts Symposium I entitled Revelation and Environment under the auspices of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Prince Philip.

1996 – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew convenes ecological gathering at the Theological School of Halki on the environment and communications.

1997 – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew convenes ecological gathering at the Theological School of Halki on the environment and justice.

1997 - The RSC, through Ms. Maria Becket’s coordination, hosts Symposium II entitled The Black Sea in Crisis under the auspices of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and H.E. Jacques Santer, President of the European Commission.

1998 – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew convenes ecological gathering at the Theological School of Halki on the environment and poverty.

1999 – The Halki Ecological Institute is created for inter-disciplinary vision and dialogue, implementing the ecological theory of the Religious and Scientific Committee into practice.

1999 – The RSC, through Ms. Maria Becket’s coordination, hosts Symposium III entitled River of Life – Down the Danube to the Black Sea under the auspices of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and H.E. Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission.

2002 – The RSC, through Ms. Maria Becket’s coordination, hosts Symposium IV entitled The Adriatic Sea – a Sea at Risk, a Unity of Purpose under the auspices of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and H.E. Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission.

2002 – Pope John Paul II and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew co-signed a document of environmental ethics entitled the “Venice Declaration.”

2003 – The RSC, through Ms. Maria Becket’s coordination, hosts Symposium V entitled The Baltic Sea – A Common Heritage, A Shared Responsibility under the auspices of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and H.E. Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission.

2003 – The Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Church of Norway co-sponsor the North Sea Conference.

2006 – The RSC, through Ms. Maria Becket’s coordination, hosts Symposium VI entitled The Amazon: Source of Life under the auspices of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and H.E. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations.

2007 – The RSC, through Ms. Maria Becket’s coordination, hosts Symposium VII entitled The Arctic – Mirror of Life under the auspices of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, H.E. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, and H.E. Jose Barroso, President of the European Commission.

2008 – The World Council of Churches recognizes the leadership of the Orthodox Church and designates an annual “Time for Creation” from September 1st to October 4th.

2009 – The RSC, through Ms. Maria Becket’s coordination, hosts Symposium VIII entitled The Great Mississippi River: Restoring Balance under the auspices of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

2012 – The Ecumenical Patriarchate and Southern New Hampshire University convene Halki Summit I at the Theological School of Halki to address the environment and business.

2015 – The Ecumenical Patriarchate and Southern New Hampshire University convene Halki Summit II at the Theological School of Halki to address the environment and literature.

2015 – Pope Francis recognizes the September 1st World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation and designates it for the Roman Catholic Church, as well.

2018 – Stay tuned for the next great event, namely a symposium.

The most basic takeaways from these initiatives as well as other publications include: 1) all people from every discipline and every sector must work together to save the planet; 2) moderation of all people everywhere is essential; and 3) we must continuously build a loving relationship with our planet, being ever cautious not to exploit her.

In conclusion, it’s worth mentioning that just this morning, continuing on this long history and in celebration of the mutually recognized World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis released a joint statement reaffirming the need for all people to be stewards of creation rather than lords over creation:

Our propensity to interrupt the world’s delicate and balanced ecosystems, our voracity to manipulate and control the planet’s limited resources, and our rapacity for limitless profit in markets – all these have alienated us from the original purpose of creation. We no longer respect nature as a shared gift; instead we regard it as a private possession. We no longer associate with nature in order to sustain it; instead, we lord over it to support our own constructs … [w]e urgently appeal to those in positions of social and economic, as well as political and cultural responsibility to hear the cry of the earth and to attend to the needs of the marginalized, but above all to respond to the plea of millions and to support the consensus of the world for the healing of our wounded creation.

Break the Taboo: A Call for Access to Clean Water and Sanitation Facilities for All

We all take things for granted. Take a second and think about the daily activities that occur or exist without thought, or with scant attention being paid to them. This might be the ability to flip a switch in a dark room, immediately illuminating it. Or the fact that when you are thirsty, all you need to do to solve this problem is turn on your faucet. These amenities exist without much fanfare. But have you imagined what life would be like without them?

 

In that vein, each year the United Nations celebrates World Toilet Day on November 19th to call attention to the billions of people globally, who lack access to proper sanitation.[1] This is among the most overlooked issues, and it has a tremendous impact on so many people’s lives. For many, access to running water and indoor restroom facilities is a fantasy, leaving them unable to lead healthy and productive lives. World Toilet Day seeks to draw attention to this issue, noting that approximately 2.4 billion people around the world lack access to proper toilet and sanitation facilities,[2] usually resulting in public defecation and the spread of disease. More than just an inconvenience, it is a public health crisis. Furthermore, access to sanitation is defined by the United Nations as a human right. Now is as good a time as any to turn our attention to this important issue and how continuing to ignore it will further perpetuate the devastating consequences for both people and planet.

 

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) seek to address this very issue. Goal 6 recognizes the issue by noting that water and sanitation are vital to human health and development, yet billions around the world lack access to it.[3] Among the 2.4 billion without proper access are 946 million people who lack any facilities at all, causing significant public health and environmental problems. Moreover, diarrhea caused by poor sanitation facilities and unsafe water results in 315,000 children dying each year.[4] Additionally, 17% of all workplace deaths are caused by poor sanitation and hygiene practices. This Goal cannot be fully realized as long as people are forced to drink, bathe, and wash clothing in waters that are polluted or shared with animals.

 

So what can be done about this epidemic? According the SDGs, by 2030, the UN seeks to achieve access to safe and affordable water for all and to provide people with clean and healthy sanitation facilities. To achieve this, however, we will all have to shift our thinking of the right to water.

 

One way to start is an end to open defecation, which causes diseases to spread and environmental harm. This leads to unnecessary death as well as loss of economic productivity.[5] Next, in order to reduce pollution and physical harm, the dumping of hazardous materials into water sources must stop. And finally, there must be an increased emphasis on water as an infrastructure factor. While significant time and resources are rightly spent towards the traditional matters like roads and bridges, in many countries, attention on water and sanitation is negligible. Many countries do not adequately treat and monitor the quality of their water. They allow for chemicals and waste to be dumped into water sources, leading to health problems and environmental degradation.

 

The tagline for this year’s World Toilet Day is to ‘Break the Taboo,’ a direct call from  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s 2013 commemoration and an explicit reference to the fact that while this problem persists, many do not want to talk about it, further exacerbating the problem. We often go through life taking advantage of the basic things that occur without ceremony, yet are crucial to living a healthy life with dignity. In order to solve this significant problem, we must be willing to talk about its existence and acknowledge that we all have a right to clean water and sanitation facilities.

 

#faithmatters #water #sanitation #world toilet day #breakthetaboo

 

Anthony Balouris is a Fellow at the UN for the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (un.goarch.org)

The Archdiocese is an accredited Non-Governmental Organization at the United Nations through the Department of Public Information (UN DPI) and has General Consultative Status under the Economic and Social Council of the UN (ESOSCO). It has been actively working at the UN for 30 years.

 


 

[1] http://www.un.org/en/events/toiletday/

[2] http://www.un.org/en/events/toiletday/

[3] https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg6

[4] http://www.worldtoiletday.info/wp-content/uploads/materials2016/Fact_Sheet/fact_sheet_toiletsandjobs_EN_3/fact_sheet_toiletsandjobs_EN_3.pdf

[5]http://www.un.org/en/events/toiletday/assets/img/posters/fact_sheet_toiletsandjobs_EN_3.pdf

 

Theophania and the Human Right to Water

By Dr. Elizabeth H. Prodromou, with Theodore Pritsis

As we enter 2015 and celebrate the Feast of Theophany, Orthodox Christians are presented with an opportune moment to reflect on a recently passed resolution of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), on the International Decade for Action “Water for Life 2005-2015.”  It’s a fair bet that most Orthodox Christians, indeed, most U.S. citizens, are unaware that we are entering the final year in a decade of efforts spearheaded by the UNGA aimed towards achieving the goal of “sustainable development of water resources,” and more fundamentally, towards ensuring the actualization of “the human right to clean drinking water and sanitation,” a right which the UNGA recognize as “essential to the realisation of all human rights.”  

It’s probably a safe bet that most of us do not stop to think about the enormous blessing that is our access to clean water and sanitation, much less to consider the implications choosing/having to purchase bottled water at the nearest grocery or convenience store.  It’s also likely that we are unaware of the fact that regular, unimpeded access to safe drinking water and sanitation is a point of growing tension and conflict in the Holy Land, especially at the Jordan River, the place of the original Theophania

Before turning to consider water in the Holy Land,  let’s review some basic data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta, Georgia: as of 2010, an estimated 780 million men, women, and children worldwide (11% of the world’s population) did not have access to safe water sources; more than 2.5 billion people (over 35% of the global population) did not have access to sustainable sanitation; and, of the 801,000 children under the age of five die from illnesses caused by unsafe and inadequate water for drinking, hygiene, and sanitation.  Even these few statistics should be enough, at the least, to raise curiosity about, and more justifiably, to end indifference to, water as a major human rights issue in the 21st century. 

Within the specific context of the Holy Land, the urgency and complexity of water as a human rights issue takes on tragic dimensions—for, in the lands of Jesus Christ’s birth, teaching and preaching, Crucifixion, and Resurrection, and in the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized by St. John, the Forerunner, universal access to clean water for drinking, hygiene, and sanitation, is anything but a given.  The Jordan River system, along with the Sea of Galilee and limited underground sources, provide water to Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Territories.  However, geography and politics, and especially, more than a half-century of continuing war, conflict, and refusal to recognize that water unites all humanity, are combining to make the salvific waters of the Jordan River into a stark expression of humanity’s failings. 

Even so, the Theophania event offers a reminder of hope for overcoming the limitations of the Fallen state.  Likewise, at a time when courageous and visionary leadership from all parties and brokers to the “Israeli-Palestinian Problem” is in staggeringly short supply, the example of John the Baptizer is worth recollection.

The event of Theophany focuses on the awesome synthesis of Jesus Christ’s divine and human natures.  Popularly referred to as Epiphany, the Theophania is, literally, the visible manifestation of God as man, with the public revelation, for the first time, of the Divine nature of Jesus as God, the Christ and Co-Eternal Son.  Theophany inaugurates the salvific mission of Jesus of Nazareth as human, and the exact location of Christ’s baptism, five kilometers north of the Dead Sea, carries enormous historical significance.  It marks the very spot where the Israelites crossed the Jordan River led by Moses’ successor, Joshua (Jesus) of Navi.  It is also the site of the Prophet Elijah’s ascent into Heaven on a chariot of fire, ordaining the Prophet Elisha as his successor.  The succession of these significant events, which culminate in the Baptism of the Incarnate Logos, has transformed the Jordan River into one of the most frequented pilgrimage sites throughout the Holy Land, from the period of Late Antiquity to the present. 

Pilgrimage to the Jordan River has been challenged by the unrelenting conditions of conflict in lands surrounding Christ’s baptismal location.  Pilgrimages were made difficult from 1948-1994, due to the Israeli-Jordanian conflict, and while the 1994 Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty normalized diplomatic relations between those two countries, access to the Jordan River occurs within the broader geopolitical context of the Holy Land, which can hardly be characterized as normal.  Diplomatic complications and physical security dangers notwithstanding, thousands of Christian pilgrims from all over the world continue to visit the site of Jesus Christ’s baptism.

On January 18th of every year (the Julian Calendar equivalent to the Gregorian Calendar date of January 6th) according to the New Calendar, His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem and all Palestine, along with a delegation from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, including thousands of Christian pilgrims, travels to the Jordan River, where an agiasmos (a service of sanctification of the waters) service is celebrated.  For those able to participate in the Theophany blessing of the waters of the Jordan River, the energy of the moment is palpable and enlivening, a combination of humility, joy, and hope. 

In contributing to this post, Theodore Pritsis recounted the details of one of the Theophany services that he attended over the past two years in his service in the Holy Land:  “I watched as hundreds of Christian pilgrims jumped into the Jordan River’s frigid waters—as if it were a scorching summer day in Jericho, where temperatures reach 150 degrees Fahrenheit—embracing the baptismal experience as a hajji, a Christian who is re-baptized in the waters of the Jordan.  I will never forget the perfectly positioned dove on the Patriarchal staff, which eventually flew off and landed on the bare head of His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III, who continued to read calmly the Gospel passage for Theophany.   In a very personal kind of way, this was the revelation of God for me.  It all made sense: this was the joy of the Lord, majesty by way of simplicity.  God chose to reveal Himself by allowing a dove to land on the bare head of the bishop of the Resurrection.  This was our Baptized Lord’s method of assuring us not to fear, that He is always with us and that He is always beside the suffering Christians in the Holy Land.  With each passing generation, being a Christian in the Holy Land becomes significantly harder due to the mass exodus of Palestinian Christians from their homeland.  The Theophany blessing at the waters of the Jordan River, is a reminder of the organic connection of mankind to his physical environment, and a comforting expression of the fact that Christians are a part of the natural fabric of society in the Middle East, such that the integrity and reconciliation in this region must support on a strong, vibrant, living, Christian presence.”

Of course, the revelatory centerpiece of the Theophania events is also connected to another message, namely, the heroism of John the Forerunner.  John’s role, within the context of soteriology, is not limited to the event of the Baptism.  The title of “Forerunner, o Prodromos” that the Church attributes to the son of Elizabeth and Zachariah suggests the anticipation, inspiration, and radical boldness, of John as the Baptizer of Christ.  Christ described the preeminent significance of John the Forerunner as “the greatest man born of a woman until that point” (Mark 11:11), and patristic understandings of John the Baptizer present him as a sort of boundary between the Old and New Testaments.  According to Augustine of Hippo, “because John represents the old, he is born of an elderly couple; because he represents the new, he is revealed as a prophet in his mother’s womb.”

In his role as Forerunner, John is fearless, yet his fearlessness does not trump his humility, when he quotes the Prophet Isaiah, describing himself as the “voice of one crying in the wilderness” (John 1:23).  John utilizes baptism as a way of encouraging people to turn away from sin and to seek righteousness, and in the process, expresses the centrality of water for healing, reconciliation, peace, and the fullness of life—for all human beings. 

This year, as Orthodox Christians commemorate the Theophany events at the River Jordan in the Holy Land—the revelation of Christ as Son of God and the new, salvific beginning offered through the Holy Spirit, as well as the humility and fearlessness of John, the Forerunner and Baptist—by attending agiasmo services and departing church with bottles filled with blessed water, we would do well to pray for those deprived of the human right to clean water.  The waters of the Jordan, which baptized the icon of God the Father, the Incarnate Christ, the physical manifestation of Love, offered the reconciliation between the created and the Uncreated to which Christians are called to aspire.  Water reminds us of the potential to move beyond the limitations of our human condition, just as our very physical survival as human beings is impossible without clean water.  John the Forerunner offers us a prototype for commitment to helping in every effort to ensure that all human beings around the world enjoy the right of unfettered access to clean water.  As we celebrate the Feast of Theophany in the year 2015, we should be mindful that this is also the concluding year of the International Decade for Action “Water for Life 2005-2015” proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations.  Orthodox Christians should commit to the message of the UNGA resolution, leading by example, and we should connect that message to the Baptist’s unceasing proclamation from the deserts of Palestine, to “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2).

Dr. Elizabeth H. Prodromou is Visiting Associate Professor of Conflict Resolution at The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University, and Affiliate Scholar at Harvard University's Center for European Studies, where she Co-Chairs the Eastern Mediterranean and Europe Study Group.

 Theodore Pritsis is Advisor-Liaison to His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem, and holds both an M.Div. and M.Th. from the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology.

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