From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[UMNS-ALL-NEWS] UMNS# 387-U.S. religious leaders urge moral hurricane response

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Wed, 17 Sep 2008 17:25:05 -0500

U.S. religious leaders urge moral hurricane response

>Sep. 17, 2008

NOTE: Photographs are available at

>By United Methodist News Service

U.S. religious leaders are calling for a prompt and just "moral
response" from government leaders as Hurricanes Gustav and Ike have
heaped more pain and suffering on the shoulders of the people of the
Gulf Coast and Cuba.

More than 100 Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders signed an interfaith
statement criticizing the slow pace of hurricane recovery since 2005 and
urging bipartisan solutions. They expressed particular concern for
children and people who are poor, sick or vulnerable.

"Three years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck and the levees
breached, the slow pace of recovery and the new needs caused by Ike and
Gustav's destruction have created a moral crisis along the Gulf Coast
that demands a powerful response from people of faith," the Sept. 15
statement said.

While noting that the Bush administration promised in 2005 to rebuild
the Gulf Coast, the religious leaders say the region is still plagued by
the collapse of local institutions, homelessness, internal displacement,
poverty, abusive labor practices and environmental degradation.

They urged federal officials to cross party lines and enact the Gulf
Coast Civic Works Act, which would provide jobs to restore the region,
and to make it a priority to help families return and participate in
rebuilding their communities, create living wage jobs, restore the
coastal wetland and ensure human rights along the Gulf Coast.

Among those signing the statement were Jim Winkler, top executive of the
United Methodist Board of Church and Society, the church's social action
agency, and the Rev. Michael Kinnamon, chief executive of the National
Council of Churches.

>Prayers for Cuba

Meanwhile, the president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops
called for prayers for storm survivors in Cuba and questioned U.S.
government policies that have led to decreased humanitarian relief
response to the Caribbean nation.

Bishop Gregory V. Palmer cited the government's failure in 2006 to renew
the license of the United Methodist Global Ministries, the parent agency
of the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Without the license, UMCOR
cannot provide aid to Cuba, its leaders say. Other church denominations
have lost their licenses as well.

"Explore in your congregational learning groups the issues which create
these divisions and policies," Palmer said in a Sept. 15 statement
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"They tragically prevent the responses we wish to make to the promptings
of our hearts and our faith commitments."

The Methodist Church in Cuba has more than 20,000 members, and Cuba's
243 Methodist congregations are engaged in cooperative relief efforts.

>More needed in the Gulf Coast

According to the interfaith letter, more than 2,000 people have died and
the storms have caused more than $150 billion in damages. Diverse faith
group have donated generously and volunteered thousands of hours to
rebuild many of the restored homes in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi
and Texas.

"We have learned that acts of faith and mercy alone, no matter how
profound, cannot provide everything needed for a sustainable recovery,"
the religious leaders wrote. "Gulf Coast families deserve a federal
government that recognizes their needs by rebuilding their communities,
supporting basic human rights of all communities, addressing poverty and
displacement, and confronting coastal erosion."

Specifically, the leaders asks the next presidential administration and
Congress to honor the third anniversary of Katrina and Rita and
survivors of Ike and Gustav by pledging to:

*	Pass policy based on the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act for a
resident-led partnership to rebuild vital public infrastructure, restore
the environment and create good jobs and economic opportunities for
residents and returning displaced families;

*	Increase funding for federal, state and local partnerships in
the Gulf Coast to create more affordable housing and promote home
ownership for returning families, workers and residents moving out of
unsafe FEMA trailers;

*	Support federal funding to restore the coastal wetlands and
barrier islands that form the Gulf Coast's natural barriers to flooding
and to build improved levee systems to create a comprehensive flood
control system which could protect all Gulf Coast communities from
another Category 5 storm.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470


United Methodist News Service Photos and stories also available at:


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