Swedish Archbishop emeritus Anders Wejryd, president of the World Council of Churches (WCC) for Europe, recently attended a ceremony during which Rodrigo Mundaca, who has fought for free access to water in Chile, received the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award. Wejryd shared with WCC Communication some of his thoughts on water justice.
Is the world becoming more aware of the connection between human rights and water justice?
Archbishop Wejryd: I hope so, but we have a long way to go. We must realize that people who are vital for the fight for human rights have a much larger voice than in previous decades. Yet if human rights, in order to be sustainable, need a religious foundation for so many people. And if religions are weakened or distorted, this foundation will be lost. When states and local authorities malfunction, and water resources are ill-managed or not managed at all, some people turn to commercial solutions for help. However, they tend to help only a few – not most.
Would you like to share what you know and admire about the work of Rodrigo Mundaca?
Archbishop Wejryd: Rodrigo Mundaca is an agricultural engineer who works to promote water rights in the Chilean province of Petorca, where access to water by local communities has dramatically deteriorated in recent years. Water shortages have been caused by droughts and because of a massive increase in the water-intensive production of avocados, which has resulted in widespread privatisation of waters and emergence of illegal pipes that carry water from rivers to private wells. My impression is that he has stuck to his original ambition of water justice for all, and then has continued to developed his understanding of the challenges in a wise manner.
Why is the ecumenical movement an important player in terms of seeking water justice for all?
Archbishop Wejryd: The ecumenical movement has always tried to keep what is close together with what seems to be far away. The commandment of loving your neighbor has been expanded in a natural way, both geographically and temporally, which gives a sound basis for sustainability. When states and local authorities fail, church congregations often are looked upon as credible and effective – and through the ecumenical movement churches can offer inspiration and exercise local, national and international pressure. Churches also live with the fact that water, in many ways, represents God.