In March, Fray René Flores OFM delivered a statement to the Human Rights Council calling on the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to come to an equitable agreement for sharing their transboundary waters. He is one of the many Franciscan brothers and sisters who have addressed the United Nations of the years. However, their advocacy at the international level builds on years of work in their communities where, in many cases, human rights violations are a daily reality
Fray René himself lives in El Salvador, a country that will run out of drinkable water in just 80 years according to some estimates. The Franciscans have been part of the efforts to avert this impending crisis, including by looking across the borders of the countries that make up the “dry corner” of Central America. Meanwhile, at the national level, they have successfully pushed for a constitutional amendment that recognizes the rights to water and sanitation, giving people new handholds to take action. Following his statement at the UN, Fray René wrote this short reflection on the human and spiritual dimension behind his work.
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Sister Water calls us to the people of El Salvador
“The human right to water, together with sanitation and adequate food, are deeply felt needs of the population, more than anything else fundamental, and we ask God, that ratification is achieved,” the Archbishop of San Salvador, José Luis Escobar Alas, said in his message in the crypt of the Metropolitan Cathedral”
On 19 February 2021, the Campaign for the Human Right to Water and Food – which is supported by social organizations, environmentalists and churches defending human rights – made a call to the presidents or general secretaries of the ten political parties that fielded candidates for deputies and mayors in the elections of 28 February. The purpose was for the representatives to sign a public commitment supporting the ratification of the constitutional reform on these rights for the population; this event was held in front of the tomb and the prophetic memory of Saint Romero. Of the ten parties, four representatives of the parties were present, all of them women (why didn’t men come as representatives: is it because women are already a majority in political spaces?)
“Regarding the agreement, the organizations and churches pointed out that the current legislature has approved two reforms to the Constitution of the Republic, one that recognizes the human right to water and its sanitation. And, the second, linked to adequate food. Article 2, first paragraph and Article 69, where these rights that the Salvadoran State must guarantee are added”Diariocolatino. 20-2-2021
The struggle for the recognition of water and sanitation as a right, as well as the proposal for a general water law, has been fought for more than a decade by civil society and churches. The fight for the determination of food sovereignty has been longer, struggling for food quality to reach the majority. This struggle for environmental justice and against impunity confronts the privatizing and monopolistic interests of the oligarchic groups in the country as well as the guidelines on extractives of the government in power.
In the history of the Salvadoran people this act is transcendent, for seeking that the parties and their representatives publicly commit themselves in favor of the human rights to water and food. That is to say, in favor of the majority and the good of the Common Home in this territory. It was an act of civil responsibility, with citizen participation and collective leadership. It is important to highlight the non-signature of some parties, which we hope will commit themselves in the following days.
The other transcendental aspect is that once again the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and the historic Christian Churches agreed on the defense of the human rights of the people, and the care of creation as a gift from God for all in equality. Water is fundamental in these times of pandemic. Water is integrated to the territories, to biodiversity, to the forests and ecosystems, everything is a relationship of interdependence in the Common Home. Without quality and access to water there is no food for Salvadoran men and women, much less for future generations.
We are part of a single intention of creative love. That is our profession of faith; our God left this “sister Mother Earth” so that life may continue and be transformed into more LIFE. God did not create capitalism, extractivism or the market economy. The divine proposal seeks that life be abundant for all his creatures. Thank you sister water, you summon us and inspire us with your fragility, tenderness and goodness of life!