Take me to the river…

Not just any river. In the well-known song by Al Green, the river alluded to is the Jordan, the lowest river in the world, and because of the area it flows through, it is regarded as holy to Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike. The song references baptismal cleansing and what could be interpreted as less spiritual as it alludes to teenage lust. It was covered by many bands seeking to emulate the soulful voice and style of Green, and it became a valuable royalty generating fish out of water when cast as an animatronic singing fish aptly named Big Mouth Billy Bass. Interestingly, Green subsequently became a pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church.

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We are reminded of the river’s importance by the royal visit to Jordan the other week with images of Prince Charles immersing his hands into the river and reports of him requesting bottles of its water to take home for future royal christenings. Reports indicate that this royal visit, marking the centenary of UK-Jordan bilateral bonds, will spotlight climate change, security, interfaith and charities championing the role of women and supporting children.

Many here may question the celebration of a centenary with Jordan when one closer to home was largely overlooked, and some may view that decision to be an interfaith issue that is more comfortably dealt with in a foreign land. Perhaps we’re better at throwing our tuppence worth into a global pond where the ripples generate less tidal energy and reduce the risk of being swamped in our own backyard.

And on the theme of swamping, or not as the case may be, riparian rights aside, the water politics of the Jordan River basin provide an example of the tensions that can boil over wherever natural resources are adversely impacted by climate change. So, again, it would seem that tolerance and cooperation are critical, but how do we achieve it when we witness borders across the world being slammed in the face of refugees searching for a safe haven? The push and pull of human migration, internal and external, may become as stormy as the seas they struggle to cross.

Fair river sharing, essential to the economy and health of the countries it may flow through, also means sharing the responsibility for pollution, incentivising it where necessary. Access to clean water for consumption, irrigation and industry is in everyone’s interests; with rising sea levels, drought, and arid landscapes, we have more to gain through collaboration.

Since we’re on a spiritual theme, let’s recognise that all religions participate in meals or feasts of celebration and remembrance. So, when the great and the good gather to wine and dine for the next conference of the parties, let’s pray that it’s not a last supper for the planet and that Big Mouth Billy Bass is the only fish pleading to be taken to the river. We can cast our bread upon the waters and dream the impossible dream, just like Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.

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