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NCC special commission says, “Never again” and let’s mean it

New Orleans, August 24, 2006 – Rebuilding lives and communities with justice all along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico remains the top priority of religious leaders who have followed closely the hurricane response in the last twelve months. 

“Let us say, ‘Never again’ this time and finally mean it,” said the National Council of Churches USA’s Special Commission on the Just Rebuilding of the Gulf Coast in a statement.  “Let us commit to working toward a rebuilt and restored Gulf Coast region for all people—regardless of their race, ethnicity, economic status or political affiliation.  The citizens of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas deserve no less.” 

Members of the NCC’s Special Commission met at Rayne Memorial United Methodist Church here this week for their third visit to the region.  They heard from representatives of several denominations about the work that has been done and what has been left undone. 

“The time for restoration and reconciliation in the Gulf Coast region is long overdue,” the Commission said in a statement.  “One year later the struggle to rebuild and reconcile after Hurricane Katrina, Rita and Wilma’s indiscriminate destruction is still a tangible reality in the daily lives of people who experienced firsthand the devastation of the storms.”  

Commission members visited devastated communities in Long Beach and Bay St. Louis, Miss.  They saw the temporary home of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church inside Hansboro Presbyterian Church in Long Beach.  St. Peter’s was obliterated by Katrina.  They heard from the Interfaith Disaster Task Force in Long Beach and visited Camp Coast Care in that community.  An Episcopal school has been turned into rebuilding center by Lutheran Episcopal Services of Mississippi. 

“We have advocated for justice for the people of the Gulf Coast region especially those who traditionally have had no voice in the halls of government,” said the Commission. “We have witnessed for the needs of too many human beings, all created in the image of God, who seem to have been overlooked as plans to rebuild have been developed.” 

At the same time Commission members noted “the many long hours of hard work and sacrifice of those in our congregations as well as in synagogues, mosques and community organizations, who have stepped in to help in the efforts to rebuild. There have been countless hours of work donated by mission trips or work visits by our 35 member communions.” 

The Special Commission plans to continue working with local and regional faith leaders to be a voice for the poor and the voiceless as rebuilding plans emerge. 
 


Statement of the National Council of Churches USA’s Special Commission on a Just Rebuilding of the Gulf Coast – August 29, 2006 

One Year Later
The Struggle for Restoration and Reconciliation  

One year later the struggle to rebuild and reconcile after Hurricane Katrina, Rita and Wilma’s indiscriminate destruction is still a tangible reality in the daily lives of people who experienced firsthand the devastation of the storms.  

As we mark the one-year anniversary Hurricane Katrina, we do so with a mix of profound joy and equally profound sadness. We are deeply grateful the hurricane forecast for more damaging storms has not come true. We continue to pray to God that there will not be another devastating storm this hurricane season. It is hard to imagine how those who are continuing to struggle for justice and to rebuild their lives, homes and communities would be able to bear another storm when the vestiges of the last ones are still a haunting presence on the streets of New Orleans as well as along the entire Gulf Coast in communities such as Pass Christian, Biloxi, Gulfport, Bay St. Louis, and Waveland.  

We recognize the key role churches have played in response to the suffering and pain. The faith community has served as first responders and ongoing community rebuilders.  We are also thankful for the many long hours of hard work and sacrifice of those in our congregations as well as in synagogues, mosques and community organizations, who have stepped in to help in the efforts to rebuild. There have been countless hours of work donated by mission trips or work visits by our 35 member communions. We have sent financial help. We have provided food and shelter. We have prayed with and for the people. 

We have advocated for justice for the people of the Gulf Coast region especially those who traditionally have had no voice in the halls of government. We have witnessed for the needs of too many human beings, all created in the image of God, who seem to have been overlooked as plans to rebuild have been developed. We have taken steps to cleanup mold and to make sure that efforts to rebuild are environmentally-friendly so that a rebuilt Gulf Coast is a sustainable one. 

Indeed, the people of the Gulf Coast region have been steadfast and unmovable in their determination to rebuild their homes, lives and communities in spite of the fact that they have not had much help from government agencies and very little assistance from the insurance companies whose policies were supposed to protect them. 

While we can celebrate the many stories of overcoming incredible obstacles and persevering through the devastation, we are profoundly grieved by the work that still needs to be done. The continuing tragedy is the incredibly slow response by the federal, state and local governments to send the assistance that was promised to the people of the Gulf Coast in the days following the hurricanes. 

Many said that they would not forget and yet many have been forgotten.  

Our Christian faith teaches us that the Lord requires us to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). And, Jesus teaches us that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us (Matthew 7:12). Which of us would want our lives to lay in ruin while those who are supposed to help are busy fighting over politics, power and property that does not belong to them?  

The time for restoration and reconciliation in the Gulf Coast region is long overdue. As we remember the devastation, let us remember the faces and the images that played across our television and computer screens beginning on Aug. 29, 2005, and the days that followed.  Let us remember the sorrow, the anger and the other strong emotions that we felt upon hearing about the New Orleans Convention Center and people stranded on rooftops, bridges and bypasses. And, as we remember let us rededicate ourselves to advocating for justice in the Gulf Coast region.  Let us say, “Never again” this time and finally mean it.  Let us commit to working toward a rebuilt and restored Gulf Coast region for all people—regardless of their race, ethnicity, economic status or political affiliation.  The citizens of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas deserve no less. 

Let us be unwavering and resolved in our pledge to make sure that this time next year, the Gulf Coast will be much better off than it is now—one year later.


Pictured: New Orleans 9th ward, months after Katrina.
Contact NCC News: Rev. Daniel Webster, 212-870-2252, dwebster@councilofchurches.org

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