Several church bodies are tying a worldwide campaign for safe water to this year's Lenten season.
The National Council of Churches, with partners Church World Service and Lifewater International, has created a website dedicated to encouraging Christians to remember the millions around the world who do not have access to clean water.
The organizations are reminding Christians that some women in Africa and Asia walk 3.7 miles a day to obtain water, and unclean water is the root cause of around 80 percent of the sicknesses in developing countries. Moreover, unclean water is behind the deaths of 5,000 children each day.
"Water is symbolic of our relationship with God, carrying the image of renewal, promise, and hope," says NCC's Jordan Blevins, who helped create the website, washforlent.wordpress.com. "Focusing on the global water, sanitation, and hygiene crisis for the Lenten journey brings us into better relationship with God, and all of God's people."
During Lent – which begins on Feb. 17 for Western Christians and Feb. 15 for Eastern Orthodox Christians – believers reflect on the journey of Jesus Christ to the cross and the impact it has on their lives. Lent is the time of preparation for Easter and usually involves 40 days of prayer, fasting, and acts of compassion.
The WASH for Lent website includes devotional materials that can help readers during Lent pray, study and act on behalf of safe, affordable and sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene in countries around the world. The word "WASH" in the website's name stands for water, sanitation and hygiene.
In addition to NCC, another ecumenical church body, the World Council of Churches, is also encouraging its members to take up the cause of water justice. The WCC is posting weekly reflections exploring the connection between the way water is used in different liturgical practices and daily water use.
"This year's Seven Weeks [for water] recall the deep liturgical roots of baptism and baptismal preparation as the heart of Lent, pointing to the use of water by the church at prayer," says the Rev. Dr John Gibaut, director of the Commission on Faith and Order at the WCC. "The Christian community's liturgical use of water has the potential to be a rich source of theological reflection about what water is, and about the care with which it is used."
The weekly reflections are posted on the WCC's website, wwww.oikoumene.org, along with links and ideas for activities for individuals and congregations about water.
The reflections are provided by the Ecumenical Water Network, an initiative of Christian churches, organizations and movements that advocate access to clean water as a human right and work to promote people's access to water through community-based initiatives.
Nearly one billion people in the world lack clean drinking water and 2.5 billion people lack access to basic sanitation.