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Faith in Water workshops leads to new network, partnerships, actions, ideas

8 September, 2009:

Innovators and inventors linked with faiths to find solutions to water issues. Pictured - a Naiade solar water filter

A unique Faith in Water meeting in Salisbury, UK, from 5-7 July 2009 brought together for the first time ever three groups that rarely talk or meet. These were:

• The major religions and in particular the representatives of their schools and education programmes.

• Representatives of the major international agencies such as the UN and World Bank, working on programmes such as water, health, sanitation and education

• Innovators and inventors dedicated to finding practical solutions to water and sanitation issues

This first Faith in Water conference resulted in an astonishing array of new and possible partnerships, including the UN family (UNDP, UNICEF, UN-HABITAT) inviting faiths to become official partners on these issues, and the World Bank suggesting the faiths become partners in particular in the Bank’s annual Water Week.

These partnerships – and this meeting - have broken through barriers of distrust, suspicion and, to some level, neglect, of the key role that faiths can play as providers of formal education in the developing world.

Innovations and Partnerships

Innovations include an improved rope pump (an ancient technique that uses knotted rope fed through a pipe to pull water out of a well, which has been made many times more efficient through nylon rope and pvc piping), a "Naiade" (pictured above) which uses solar power to filter drinking water, and special “Peepoo” plastic bags which render human waste safe and usable as fertilizer within a short period – useful in slum areas where people sometimes have no access to latrines at all. Bishop Walter Thomas of the New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore, US, and Magdaline Gitahi, Redeemed Gospel Church, Nairobi, Kenya, both found this immediately important for the needs of the poor communities around 2000 churches throughout Kenya to which they are linked as sponsor and activist respectively. “This simple thing will change people’s lives,” said Ms Gitahi. “Now I want to learn about more inventions and strategies that I didn’t know about before.”

Nairobi has had water rationing for many months now, with poor people paying the most
“The outcome of this historic meeting will mean that hundreds of thousands of children – perhaps more – who receive their education through faith schools in the developing world, will be able to have greater access to clean water for drinking and washing, will be able to have greater access to cleaner and safer toilet and sanitation facilities, which will help protect the poorest communities,” said Martin Palmer, secretary general of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) which together with the Dutch Ecological Management Foundation (EMF), the International Water and Sanitation Centre (IRC) and cosponsor UNICEF brought this conference together.

Not only were partnerships created and proposed between major international institutions and the faiths, but they were also created and proposed between the faiths – with exchanges of skills, information and networks, and offers of financial and technical assistance. And perhaps most importantly the sharing, through stories, of a vision of a better safer, and in many ways a more faithful world of water provision.

Successful Outcomes from the Conference

Reverend Al Bailey II from the New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore, USA, commented: "We also want to thank you again for Salisbury. As a result of you putting this meeting together, Frederick Claasen from Micro Water Facility and Evert Groeneveld from Clean Water Now in the Netherlands, Magadaline Gitahi, from Redeemed Gospel Church in Nairobi, Kenya, Meagan Seneque and Jacqui Redmond from Catholic Earthcare Australia, and New Psalmist Baptist Church in the USA are forging a collaboration to work on the Pee and Poo bags in Nairobi’s Kibera Slums. We are thinking of doing this at a school in the Kibera Slums first and then expanding".

A guidebook is currently being written from the conference, by ARC, EMF and IRC, in order to share training, resources and inspiration – and show that partnerships can work and should be created and encouraged.

Participants, in addition to sponsors and observers, included:



Ven. Phrakru Samu Lom, Buddhapadipa Temple, Wimbledon, UK –

Dr Vinya Ariyaratne, Sarvodaya Shramadana, Sri Lanka –

Christian, Protestantism

Bishop Walter S. Thomas, Sr., Odell Dickerson, Rev.Al Bailey II, New Psalmist Baptist Church, Baltimore USA –

Magdaline Gitahi, Redeemed Gospel Church, Nairobi, Kenya, see here for more background.

Rodgers Marandu, Water Engineer from Lutheran tradition and outreach work teaching - Tanzania


Dr Mary Grey, UK, - Theologian bringing Catholic perspective and also has practical input from her experience as founder of Wells for India in Rajasthan.

Jacqui Remond and Megan Seneque, Earthcare Australia


Rupa Ragunath, Vrindavan Food For Life, India - Practitioner

Ranchor Das, UK - Theologian


Mirele Goldsmith, USA – Theologian

Manlio Dell’Ariccia, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Ethiopia - Practitioner


Imam Dr Ridwaan Gallant. South Africa – Practitioner

Jatna Supriatna, CI Indonesia

Dr Murad Bino, Chief Executive INWRDAM - The Inter-Islamic Network on Water Resources Development & Management in Amman, Jordan - practitioner


Dr Rooyintan P Peer, Dadar Athornan Institute – Theologian

Professor Kavas Kapadia, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, India – Practitioner


Henk Holtslag, Smart Water Solutions

Frederik Claasen, Micro Water Facility

Evert Groeneveld, and Marjan Groeneveld Clean Water Now!

InterGovernment Officials

Len Abrahams, Senior Water Resources Specialist, World Bank, Washington DC, USA

Joakim Harlin, Water Resource Specialist, United Nations Development Programme, Washington DC, USA

Stephen Young, Senior Water and Sanitation Advisor, Department for International Development, United Kingdom

Hans Spruijt, UNICEF Bangladesh

Dr Graham Alabaster, Chief, Section I, Water Sanitation and Infrastructure Branch, Human Settlements Financing Division, United Nations Human Settlements Programme, Nairobi, Kenya

Each partipant has provided a paper of some 2000 words which will be available on ARC’s website

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