UN Conference Considers The Ethics of Water Use

25 June 2012

Water – and its capacity to sustain both physical and spiritual life – took center stage at a special presentation by URI members at Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

Theologian Reijo E. Heinonen led the list of panelists presenting “The Spirituality of Ethics and Water” June 18 at the RioCentro convention center in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Through dialogue and cooperation, Dr. Heinonen and others argued, members of different faith traditions can avoid competing with or de-humanizing “the other,” and can learn to share the world’s shrinking resources.

“Have you ever thought how the understanding of the intrinsic value of water could contribute to our use of water and our prodigality?” said Dr. Heinonen, founding dean of the ecumenical theology faculty of the University of Joensuu in Finland.  “Spirituality, with its holistic, religious dimensions can promote the understanding of the intrinsic value of water -- which can hinder its prodigal use.”

His discussion was followed by a series of presentations by practitioners of several world religions, spiritual traditions and indigenous beliefs, who described the essential meaning of water – a symbolic and practical element of every faith – in their traditions.

The event ended with a closing spiritual ritual and a blessing over water samples brought from many different parts of the world.

URI presented the event together with URI Brasil, URI Finland, the Faiths Without Borders CC, the World Council of Churches and the Ecumenical Water Network, a group of churches and Christian organizations promoting access to water throughout the world.