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Kenya: Inter-faith organization launches Water for Peace project

March 22, 2011

The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns recognizes that, around the world, clashes are multiplying due to increasingly scarce natural resources, such as water. But in a number of cases, mostly in Israel/Palestine, water has become the medium through which organizations try to foster dialogue and collaborations in situations of conflict.

Following is an interesting case in point, reported on March 15 on the Catholic Information Service for Africa (CISA) website.

See an article about this project from the Interfaith Action for Peace in Africa (IFAPA) website.

(From CISA) A regional inter-faith organization in Africa has launched a water project in Matuga constituency, Kenya as a means of fostering peace and unity among the Muslims and Christians in the area.

The launch on March 12 by Interfaith Action for Peace in Africa (IFAPA) coincided with the organizations fifth Commissioners’ meeting that took place in the coastal town of Mombasa.

The four-day convention brought together IFAPA commissioners, parliamentarians and representatives from several African countries of the seven distinguishable faith traditions in Africa: Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, the Baha’i faith and the African Traditional Religion.

Kenya’s minister for Trade and Member of Parliament for Matuga constituency Chirau Ali Mwakwere officially opened the meeting and thanked IFAPA for putting up the water project in his constituency.

In his speech, he recognized the role played by the religious groups in bringing peace to Africa.

“I am extremely delighted that you have gone beyond taking peace as a simple definition … [W]hat peace can you have if you do not have water, education, efficient means of transport, and understanding within communities irrespective of their origin?”

In his key speech Dr. Ishmael Noko, the chair of IFAPA, noted, “Unless we come together into a life of community marked by radical ‘care’ for the other and for creation, we cannot live in peace.  Peace is illusive; it can never be a property of one community against the other.”

Dr. Noko said he hoped the water project would “seed” peace in a very simple and practical way. “It is our hope and prayer that peace may grow in this land. That Kenyans may live in peace because it is their right to live in peace.”

The IFAPA-Mbegani Water Project was done in conjunction with several women’s groups and is expected to serve over 6,000 people in 13 villages in Matuga constituency.

IFAPA was initiated by the Lutheran World Federation with the aim of bringing religious communities across the continent of Africa to cooperate and work together to promote peace in the continent.

From the IFAPA website:

Safe drinking water strengthens peace and benefits women

Athuman Mbodze, a resident of Mazumalume village in Kwale an area on Kenya’s coastal region of Mombasa, was cheerful as the leaders of Interfaith Action for Peace in Africa (IFAPA) arrived here for the inauguration of the Mbegani Water Project.

In the past Mbodze and other women in the area had walked for more than six kilometers to collect water in a dry river or a spring in the forest.

“We are full of joy. We will no longer walk for long distance to collect water. We have also experienced water related disease. I now think that will become a thing of the past,” said a smiling Mbodze on March 12 as drumbeats, songs and dances coloured the celebrations.

The “cry” of the women here has was heard by IFAPA, a pan-African interreligious group which brings together Christian, Muslim Baha’i, Buddhism, Judaism, Hindu and African Traditional Religion (ATR), which decided to help. Its launch coincided with group’s fifth Commission of the organization at the Jacaranda Indian Ocean Beach Resort which convened from March 11-14.

Water brings welfare and stability

“It is our hope the water projects will keep you united as faith groups. This is symbol of your unity and development,” Rev. Dr. Ishmael Noko, the IFAPA President told the community at the launch attended by hundreds of area residents.

With a budget of US$33 000, IFAPA supported the drilling of the borehole, piping of the water, a storage tank and provide technical expertise. This is the phase one; the organizations hopes carry out phase two at a cost of US$30,000. This phase will include taking the water to villages, school, clinics, churches and mosques.

“When the women left in the morning to collect water, their husbands suspected they were having affairs outside their marriage. This caused problems in the family. With water now, we hope the women will be able stay at home with their families,” said Rose Makwere, the local contact and an active developer of the projects between IFAPA and Mazumalume community.

The water project is part a women’s campaign titled “A Mother’s Cry for a Healthy Africa,” which promotes access to safe drinking water for all. More than 6,500 people in 13 villages, especially women, will benefit from it. Schools, medical clinics, churches and mosques will also access water.

“We shall do a lot of things with the water. We shall grow food, sell the surplus and send our children to school …” Mrs. Makwere told the nearly 2 000 community members who had gathered for launch.

She said the community members will be charged a minimal fee, which will used for maintenance of the project.

“This is the beginning. You have started us off and we are very happy,” said Mrs. Makwere.

The leader said water had no colour, religion or gender, stressing that it is going to be for all people. “By giving them the water, we bring peace to the people,” she said.

IFAPA gives tolerance and and good ideas

Wilson Tangutsi, the area’s district commissioner, reminded the community that water scarcity was a common problem in Africa. He urged them to ensure the project does not stall.

“I praise you (IFAPA) for promoting religious tolerance because now we have an idea how we should be promoting it is a government,” he said.

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