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Faith in Water Workshop: 5-7 July 2009

Updated July 3, 2009:

The water issue is very broad and very complex. It affects billions of people, the problems are horrendous, it involves a wide number of necessary strategies and solutions, and the cost of not sorting it out are many deaths, illnesses and much suffering by humans, animals and the environment.


Water, sanitation, children and faith are the focus when religious leaders, theologians, educators, environment specialists, water sanitation experts and innovators meet for the first ever workshop on Faith and Water in Salisbury’s Sarum College from July 5th – 7th July.

The immediate goal is to produce a useful guide to help faiths and secular groups work together to protect water resources and the environment, to preserve hygiene and promote the safe management of water and waste, specifically in the context of schools. In the longer term the meeting will forge strong partnerships and reinforce the faiths’ ability to help communities improve their water facilities for many years to come, and encourage international secular agencies to see them as natural partners – something that has not happened before.

There will also be a very special meditation in the Lady Chapel of Salisbury Cathedral on Monday June 6 at 6.30 to 7.30 with prayers from seven traditions about our place in nature and our relationship with water.

Why Faiths and Water?

Linking faith with water facilities and school toilets does not sound like an obvious step, yet it is important. Water is central to many religions: as the source of life, it often represents birth and rebirth. It cleans the body, and by extension purifies it, and these two main qualities confer a highly sacred status on water. This is reflected in the way people use water, in the way they design water systems and the need for accessibility of water for cleansing after toilet use or washing hands.

Water provision for drinking, hand washing, flushing, cleaning, school meal preparation and the provision of clean toilets and urinals in schools are vital to keep children healthy. Anybody with children in school knows that schools are places where children get infected. They are places where many children gather in often cramped spaces with limited ventilation, bad hygienic conditions, no hand washing. A study in Colombia showed a direct link between diarrhoea and hygiene in schools: more than 40% of cases in schoolchildren were transmitted in school rather than at home. Here are more reasons for this meeting happening now:

Water distribution in Nairobi.
• Only recently has sanitation – so important – been included at all levels, partly because for many years some have felt it rather distasteful

• Faiths run hundreds of thousands of schools around the world: the Catholic Church alone runs some 200,000 schools.

• There is almost nothing extant from religions on water. There are few writings even about water in baptism, and very little about the theology of water, its symbolism and its ritual use. We have commissioned new theological writings now and these will form the heart of the guide along with stories from around the world about how these translate into practical action

• Improving sanitation, water and hygiene reduces related infectious diseases by more than 15%

• Good facilities and practices in schools can reach many children at ages conducive to internalising the habits for cleaner, better lives and a reverse of environmental destruction

• Schools, teachers and religious institutions are respected in virtually all cultures, bringing trusted knowledge, values and skills to the children, their families and communities

We will also have on display a Naiade water-filtering unit from the Netherlands - which makes a wonderful companion to the drama of the new font by William Pye in Salisbury Cathedral.
• Many faiths also run informal education networks such as youth groups where information and experience can be exchanged

• The world faiths could be a more powerful force in achieving good health and environmental knowledge, attitudes and practices


Seven key traditions will be represented: Buddhists, Catholics, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Protestants and Zoroastrians, from 15 countries. For each there is a theologian as well as somebody working practically in the field. Faith in Water will also be attended by top water experts from UNICEF, UNDP, the World Bank, DFiD and the Dutch Government’s development organisation, DGIS. Working directly with faiths in this way will be a novelty to many of them.

An unusual aspect of this conference is the role of innovators. Three have been invited to talk about some of the entrepreneurial advances in water and sanitation in developing countries, and to inspire others to think and act creatively. For example Henk Holtstag will be there to talk about Smart Techs – simple technological solutions - including the ceramic Filtron Filter (made by Potters for Peace, and eliminating bacteria and turbidity), rope pumps (there are 80,000 of them transforming lives of 3 million people), and Tippy Taps for washing hands in schools (costing less than £3/unit)


The event is cohosted by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), with the Dutch Ecological Management Foundation (EMF) and the International Water and Sanitation Centre (IRC). ARC is a secular organisation which began as a sister body to WWF, and works to broker partnerships with the faiths on conservation matters. EMF is an ecological body with a particular focus on water. IRC specifically works on water, sanitation and hygiene and as a centre brings 40 years of experience to the conference. The conference will take place in the delightful surroundings of Sarum College beside Salisbury Cathedral: a Christian ecumenical study research centre which is taking steps to become more ecologically sustainable by setting targets for sourcing food and energy locally.

Photo opportunities: The Naiade and Water Artefacts on Display

Many participants are bringing ritual objects connected to water, and these will be available for public viewing at Sarum College's Bookshop from Monday, 6 July - Tuesday, 7 July from 0900-1700 hours.

We will also have on display a Naiade water-filtering unit from the Netherlands - which makes a wonderful companion to the drama of the new font by William Pye in Salisbury Cathedral. Visitors are welcome to view this at Salisbury Cathedral on Tuesday, 7 July. The Naiade is a blue box about the shape (and half the size) of a Tardis, which works with solar energy and no chemicals to filter up to 2,500l drinking water a day. Each Naiade costs around £3,500 and lasts for more than 10 years; it is operational in 27 countries, with many schools paying through micro-credit. A child can have 2.5l drinking water a day, for less than 1p a week. For details link to:CleanWaterNow!.

Six Naiade units have been installed recently into four residential schools in the Indian state of Orissa, supplying clean water to more than 1,150 children to great effect. "The Naiade units that Gram Vikas has installed in our residential schools are running without any problems..." reports a representative from the Gram Vikas schools.

"As a result of clean drinking water available in these four schools, the incidence of diarrhoea and dysentry has reduced by more than 90 percent. We have had no incidence of jaundice (hepatitis A) or typhoid. Hence these Naiade water filters have been a big blessing to these schools and students."

Additionally, we are excited to give details of an exibition hosted by Salisburyand Wiltshire Museum to coincide with the Faith in Water Workshop. Faith in Water Poster The display contains:

- a delightful Aquamanile (a medieval pourer used for serving water during meals);

- a lead pump and water trough originally placed on the corner of Catherine Street and Milford Street in Salisbury for use as a commercial water supply;

- and Laurence Whistler's Glass "Dark Arches", linked to the miracle of turning water into wine.

Public viewing times are from 1200-1700 hours on Sunday, 5 July, and 1000-1700 hours on Monday, 6 and Tuesday, 7 July.


Event organiser: Nicki McHugh at:, telephone: +44(0)1225 758004 and Project Manager: Elizabeth Idienumah,


Elizabeth Idienumah travelled to the slums of Nairobi to learn about a church that is running extensive programmes on water and sanitation. Listen to part of a lesson where school children are learning more about water conservation and hygiene:

Link to the Series of Smart Water and Finance Solutions booklets:

Smart Water Solutions 1.

Smart Harvesting Water Solutions.

Smart Sanitation Solutions 1.

Smart Sanitation Solutions 2.

Smart Finance Solutions.

For other ARC events, please link here.




Gram Vikas.

Salisburyand Wiltshire Museum.

Faith in Water Poster

Seven Weeks to Water: a story from

News of Christian Eco Retreats.

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