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A Call for Water Justice in Detroit


The Religious Leaders Forum of Metropolitan Detroit believes that access to water is a matter of human dignity and a moral concern for all. While government officials have implemented programs to help residents with overdue water bills, more than 17,000 households were at risk of shut-off in 2018—a recurring problem each year.  We have adopted the following statement and will seek meetings with City of Detroit and State of Michigan officials to encourage lasting solutions to ensure water for all and transparency about water shut-offs. In addition, we have designated the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend as Water Justice Weekend. We are asking religious leaders individually and through their judicatories to preach about water rights and help their congregations understand why this is a major moral concern for our communities.

Religious Leaders Forum

Statement of Faith Leaders

On the Accessibility and Affordability of Water in Detroit

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
   the God of glory thunders,
   the Lord, over mighty waters.

— Psalm 29:3

Water plays a pivotal role in our various religious communities and congregations. We mention water in our prayers. We use water in our rituals. We find water in our Scriptures, where water is more than a metaphor for God’s loving kindness, but a promise made to people living in places where water was scarce and precious. Water makes life possible.

Water is essential to human flourishing and human dignity. In 2010, the General Assembly of the United Nations rightfully declared that “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation” is “a right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights” (UN Res. 64/292, art. 1). This fundamental human right resonates with all of our sacred teachings.

As religious leaders, we live under a Divine obligation to speak on behalf of those who do not have access to water. We bear responsibility to lead by word and action in calling for policies that are just and equitable. We are called to work with those of good will for water practices that are environmentally sustainable. We are called to give water to those who are thirsty.

In Metropolitan Detroit, thousands face the threat of losing access to water due to financial hardships stemming from a lack of meaningful employment. Many are forced to pay rates they cannot afford, and many bear the burden of living with a sanitation system that is unreliable, unsustainable, and out of date. Finally, many cannot take advantage of the assistance programs that the Detroit Water and Sewage Department has established to mitigate their plight.

Our elected officials must therefore address the essential role water and its affordability play in the flourishing of Michigan residents and communities. We are writing to encourage equitable and creative solutions to help low-income and vulnerable persons have access to clean and safe water.

We, the religious leaders of congregations throughout Metro Detroit write with one voice to urge all citizens to support our civil officials as they search for ways to reduce the barriers to clean and safe water for all.  We also pledge to continue to listen to the needs of the poor and to work for meaningful change in the provision of, and access to, clean and safe water for all. Finally, we pledge to work collaboratively whenever we can to promote the common good and build the Beloved Community.

The Religious Leaders Forum of Metropolitan Detroit

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