Wade in the Water: From Palestine to Detroit, Water is a Human Rights Issue


by Sarah Thompson and Hayden Abene

detroit_water_brigade_human_right-636x332Whether it’s Palestine, where Israeli authorities sever the irrigation lines and demolish the cisterns of Palestinians in the Hebron District while nearby Israeli settlers water their lawns and fill their swimming pools…

Or Anishnaabe Territory, where logging and milling companies licensed by the Canadian government pollute the rivers with mercury – poisoning generations of Indigenous families but taking no responsibility for clean-up or compensation…

Or Iraqi Kurdistan and Colombia, where armies and armed guards protect foreign oil, mining, and agricultural interests by using violence to push artisan miners and subsistence farmers away from the lands and rivers that sustain them…

Or the U.S./Mexico borderlands, where Latin American migrants die of dehydration in the scorching heat of the Arizona desert because of intentionally inhumane U.S. immigration policies…

Or Europe, where thousands of migrants from Africa and the Middle East are swallowed up in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea fleeing the lethal, chaotic fallout of NATO-led military interventions and Western economic strangleholds…

Or Detroit, where an un-elected  Emergency Manager decides to shut off water to thousands of struggling families who fall behind on their bills while allowing business as usual for corporations that owe tens of thousands of dollars on their water bills…


Having begun in 1986, in the crucible of Latin American solidarity movements, CPT has continued to thrive within various social movements as a creative, faith-inspired organization committed to undoing oppressions and to strategic peacemaking in situations of violent conflict.  CPT is familiar with the land and water struggles of our grassroots partners around the world.

This summer, CPT has been invited to learn from grassroots social movements in Detroit clamoring for water justice.

Did you know that…

  • In 2014, Detroit’s Emergency Manager discontinued water service to more than 35,000 Detroit residences affecting an estimated 96,000 people?
  • Today, approximately 18,000 Detroit households remain without water?
  • The water shut-offs precipitated a health crisis characterized by increased e.coli, salmonella, pneumonia and severe blood infections?
  • Detroit’s water rates have increased significantly over a two-year period with no affordability plan in place?

Want to know more?  Join CPT in Detroit 17-19 July for Peacemaker Congress 2015.   Together we can wade in the water of resistance that leads to freedom.

* “Wade in the Water” is one of many old spirituals used as code by enslaved Africans in the U.S. south escaping to freedom in the north.  Harriet Tubman used this song to signal folks on the Underground Railroad to get off the trail and into the river so that the enslavers’ dogs would lose their scent. 

Sarah Thompson, CPT Executive Director, and Hayden Abene, Wake Forest University (North Carolina) student and CPT intern participated in the “International Gathering of Social Movements on Water and Affordable Housing” in Detroit at the end of May. 

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