This year, the Interfaith Impact Steering Committee at Ohio University has decided to tackle the issue of water pollution. Water affects everyone. It makes up 80% of the human body and is necessary for life. No matter what religion you practice, language you speak, or country you live in, you need to have safe water. Ironically, as essential as water is for life, it can carry thousands of viruses, parasites, bacterium, and protozoa that can cause disease and, in some cases, even death. These diseases include cholera, dysentery, E. coli, typhoid, hepatitis A, polio, and botulism. While all of these can be treated by modern medicine, 1.8 million people die of waterborne pathogens each year (according to the World Health Organization).
Anyone who drinks unclean water and does not have access to modern medicine is vulnerable to these diseases. As we have seen from the aftermath of the disaster in Haiti, this is a problem throughout the third world, but it also affects people in the Western World. Right here in Athens, our water can be contaminated with chemicals from coal mine runoff. Some Indian reservations in the southwest are supplied with water that has been contaminated with nuclear reactive runoff from uranium mines. This is not just something that happens elsewhere, in those poor countries where people get sick all the time. Water pollution and waterborne diseases affect people living right here, in the US and in our own community.
I believe that water pollution is an issue that is particularly predisposed to interfaith work. As I stated before, water affects everyone. Waterborne pathogens do not discriminate. Being a Christian or a Buddhist or a Pagan will make no difference to a disease. They are blind to these things. Because of this, all people of all faiths should be working to assure that everyone on every corner of the world has clean water. I have personally seen the affect that bad water can have on children in India and Botswana. Nothing is more difficult than watching a child suffer from a disease that could be cured and could have been prevented. If the only way I can help to prevent these diseases from occurring is to work with people of different faith backgrounds, that is exactly what I will do.
Megan Casebolt is a senior at Ohio University majoring in World Religions, African Studies and Women’s studies. She is a part of the Honors Tutorial College, and a member of the Interfaith Steering Committee at Ohio University. She is also a social work intern with UCM: Center for Spiritual Growth and Social Justice.