Nuncio: Senegal World Water Forum helps draw attention to Africa
By Fr. Benedict Mayaki & Robin Gomes
An international event - like the World Water Forum that is taking place in the Senegalese capital, Dakar - helps draw the attention of the international community to the problems related to the precious dwindling resource, says Archbishop Michael Banach, Apostolic Nuncio to Senegal. He made the observation on the sidelines of the Forum, which kicked off on Monday, the eve of World Water Day. The March 21 to 26 international event, on the theme, "Water security for peace and development", is addressing the global challenges for humanity and nature, today and tomorrow.
Water challenges of Africa
The apostolic nuncio said the Forum will also help sensitize the international community regarding the problem of water in Africa:
Senegal faces challenges regarding drinking water, the availability of water, and drought. The archbishop hopes the discussions during the Forum will translate into “some concrete and practical initiatives to bring help and aid to local populations”.
Vatican delegation at Forum
Cardinal Michael Czerny, the interim prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, who is participating in the Forum on behalf of the Holy See, read a message of Pope Francis on the opening day.
In the message, the Pope said that water is a precious asset for peace. The right to drinking water and sanitation, he said, is closely linked to the right to life, which is rooted in the inalienable dignity of the human person and in constitutes a condition for the exercise of other human rights.
Senegal Church’s commitment
Archbishop Banach expressed appreciation for the social commitment of the Church in Senegal. “The Church is present in the social sector dealing with all kinds of questions related to social justice, and certainly one of those questions is water.”
A practical example in this regard, he said, is the artesian well located in the parish property, which provides water to all the inhabitants of the village. It is also a response that touches on the question of inter-religious dialogue.
In Senegal, Christians are in the minority: Catholics are probably 5 to 7 percent of the population and most of the rest are Muslims. These wells, which are the property of Catholic parishes, are open to everybody.
Catholics, Muslims, and members of the traditional communities are all welcome to draw water. The Vatican diplomat regarded this as “a concrete manifestation of inter-religious dialogue, in the good relations that exist between the other two faiths here in Senegal.”
He also spoke about the obligation of the state to respond to the basic needs of the citizens, such as security, health, food, etc. And the question of water comes within the area of health and food security issues.
Archbishop Banach said the state has the obligation to ensure that there is sufficient drinking water and sufficient water for crops because the country has to be fed.
Church’s prophetic role
The Church, added the nuncio, can be a prophetic voice in calling attention to certain issues, like bringing concrete development to underdeveloped villages, a role that the Church in Senegal is carrying out.
Archbishop Banach also appreciated the good relations between the Church and state in Senegal. He pointed out that it was President Macky Sall who extended a personal invitation to Pope Francis for a high-level delegation of the Holy See at the World Water Forum, which is led by Cardinal Czerny.
“It is the first time that a cardinal has actually participated in a water forum,” the nuncio said.