NCC General Secretary
says Katrina response must be two-fold:
Aid the victims and end the poverty that made them vulnerable
Philip E. Jenks and Leslie Tune
York, September 9, 2005 -- The General Secretary of the National Council
of Churches USA today described the plans of member churches to aid the
millions of persons displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
But the Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar warned that catastrophes like Katrina will
happen again unless national, state and local governments come to grips
with the poverty that left so many people trapped in the path of the
"The real hurricane crisis began years ago, not only with the neglect of
the levees in
but with the neglect of poor people who live in the city and throughout
the Gulf coast," Edgar said. "When the hurricane approached, people who
had the means to buy gasoline or public transportation or refuge away
from the storm, left the city. Those who could
not afford it stayed -- and we are still waiting with horror to learn
how many died."
The NCC is working closely with Church World Service, its sister
humanitarian and relief agency, to rush food, blankets and other
supplies to New Orleans and to areas where hurricane victims are being
sheltered. FaithfulAmerica.org, the council's online network of socially
committed persons of faith, raised $40,000 for relief in the week
But Edgar said governments must work harder to prevent future tragedies.
"Every city in the U.S. and around the world that neglects the poor
makes the poor vulnerable to a disaster on the scale of Katrina," Edgar
said. "The rising waters of human desperation may not be caught on
camera, but that desperation is no less real for millions in our nation
and abroad who live in 'the ground below zero.' When we fail to pay
attention, crisis comes as an expensive wake-up call. The time to build
the ark is before the flood begins."
"The world is knit together into such interdependence that we cannot
live in isolation as a country," Edgar said, "just as Gulfport and
Biloxi and New Orleans are irreversibly connected to the power grid and
the highway system and the disaster relief networks that transcend state
and local boundaries."
The United States and other members of the United Nations should offer
maximum support to the UN Millennium Project that plans to use
"practical solutions" to cut worldwide poverty in half by 2015 and save
tens of millions of lives, he said.
"Government can give us effective ways to work together, to organize and
channel our resources to help each other, and especially to help those
who cannot help themselves. Government itself is not the problem. Our
failure to manage government wisely and fairly is the problem," Edgar
"We must never forget that Jesus spent most of his ministry proclaiming
the kingdom of God
while reaching out to the poor," Edgar said. "Persons of faith can do no
less, and we remind governments throughout the world that they have been
called by God to bring us together and help those who cannot help
See statement by Church
World Service Executive Director Rev. John L. McCullough
Contact NCC News:
Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2252,
and Leslie Tune, 202-544-2350.