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Interfaith solidarity: religious leaders agree
that justice must prevail in hurricane recovery

New York, September 16, 2008 – More than 100 religious leaders from a wide range of traditions – including the president and general secretary of the National Council of Churches and heads of NCC member communions – have criticized “the slow pace of recovery” from devastating hurricanes and have called for a “moral response” to national disasters.

“Three years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck and the levees breached,” said 108 evangelical, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim leaders, “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.”

In a statement issued Monday in the wake of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, the leaders said, “Our God is a God of justice, of humanity and of healing, and this moral injustice calls each of us to bold action in support of the common good.  We must act to justly rebuild communities, restore the Gulf Coast, and empower families to overcome the devastation they suffered in our nation’s worst natural disasters.”

They called upon government officials, including those running for high offices, to pledge that their moral obligations to all people in the paths of storms be fulfilled, promptly and justly.

Signers of the statement included Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, president of the National Council of Churches, and the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, NCC general secretary. Bishop Thomas J. Hoyt and the Rev. Michael Livingston, Co-Chairs, National Council of Churches Special Commission on the Just Rebuilding of the Gulf Coast and former NCC Presidents, also signed.

Rev. Richard Cizik, National Association of Evangelicals; Richard Stearns, President, World Vision; Rabbi Steve Gutow, Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Dr. Ingrid Matterson, Islamic Society of North America; Fr. Larry Snyder, Catholic Charities USA; Rev. David Beckmann, Bread for the World; and Rev. Jim Wallis, Sojourners, were among the signers of the interfaith statement calling for not just a charitable response but for justice through long-term human rights-based recovery policy to help Gulf Coast families.

Three years after the current administration’s first major speech promising to rebuild the region devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the slow pace of recovery, the collapse of local institutions, homelessness, internal displacement, poverty, abusive labor practices and environmental degradation have created a moral crisis in the Gulf Coast. In recent weeks, hurricanes Gustav and Ike have added to the devastation in the Gulf Coast demanding a powerful response from people of faith.  

The statement urges national leaders to make enacting bi-partisan resident-led federal solutions, including the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act, helping families return and participate in rebuilding their communities, creating living wage jobs, restoring the coastal wetland and ensuring human rights along the Gulf Coast a national moral priority. 

The Gulf Coast Civic Works Campaign is a nonpartisan partnership of community, faith, environmental, student, and human rights organizations in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi and their national allies advocating for federal legislation based on HR 4048, the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act and urging national leaders to make creating jobs, rebuilding infrastructure and affordable housing, and restoring natural flood protection along the Gulf Coast a national priority.

The full text of the statement follows:

Gulf Coast Civic Works Campaign Interfaith Statement

Supporting Human Rights in Gulf Coast Recovery Is a Moral Priority

As Hurricanes Ike and Gustav hit the Gulf Coast, internally displacing over one million people, we as a nation were reawakened to the needs of the Gulf Coast. 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. 

While the nation has learned to better prepare for this latest hurricane, whether by inaction or injustice, we have still failed to protect the wellbeing of Gulf Coast survivors, new residents and their families, especially the children, the poor, the sick, and the vulnerable through just long term rebuilding policies which fully support human rights. The collapse of local institutions, homelessness, internal displacement, poverty, abusive labor practices and environmental degradation mean they continue to suffer and struggle unduly. A spiritual wound remains open across the region, one felt in God's creation and every community across this country.  

Our God is a God of justice, of humanity and of healing, and this moral injustice calls each of us to bold action in support of the common good.  We must act to justly rebuild communities, restore the Gulf Coast, and empower families to overcome the devastation they suffered in our nation’s worst natural disasters. 

As people of faith and as Americans we believe in transcendent human dignity and place our trust in basic human rights. Many of the survivors of these disasters lack the resources to return to their communities to reunite with their families. Many families still have not recovered and have not been able to resume their lives with the dignity and safety that are their right.  New residents who came to work in the recovery face hardships and abuses. 

Gulf Coast communities continue to suffer from toxic trailers; closed schools, police stations, and hospitals; a shortage of affordable housing; crumbling roads and water systems; and workplace abuse. 

As we have seen during Hurricane Gustav, an inadequate flood protection system and accelerating erosion of the wetlands left residents vulnerable to this and future disasters. Through years of improper stewardship, preventable coastal erosion has destroyed billions of dollars worth of natural flood protection and threatens the homes, places of worship, schools, and businesses of those who live along the Gulf Coast. This also threatens the security of the majority of our nation’s energy infrastructure, parts of which were once built above land and now reside below salt water. The result is an American human rights and national security crisis that requires the attention all Americans, regardless of where they live, their faith, or their political party. 

Together Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Ike and Gustav killed more than 2,000 people. They destroyed thousands of homes, businesses, and places of worship, causing over $150 billion in damages and displacing hundreds of thousands of families. Members of diverse faith communions have responded generously, volunteering thousands of hours to rebuild lives across Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas and giving millions in charitable donations. Faith groups have formed powerful new partnerships with local community leaders, non-profits, and other denominations, to lead some of the most successful efforts in the recovery.  

We have learned that acts of faith and mercy alone, no matter how profound, cannot provide everything needed for a sustainable recovery. 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. The government must empower local communities to take the lead in rebuilding their neighborhoods, renewing their lives, and restoring God’s creation. We believe it is a moral obligation for the federal government to fulfill its promises for Gulf Coast recovery:  empowering residents to return and participate in equitably rebuilding their communities. 

Now we are joining community and faith leaders across Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas and calling on people of faith to form a new partnership for a renewed and just federal Gulf Coast recovery policy to put all Gulf Coast communities, regardless of race, ethnicity or income, on the path to an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable recovery.  

We ask national leaders of both parties, Democrats and Republicans, as they discuss the future of our nation, to honor the third anniversary of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the survivors of Hurricanes Ike and Gustav by pledging to fulfill these obligations in the next Administration and Congress, including: 

•        Passing 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 to help create stronger, safer, and more equitable communities;

•        Increasing 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; and 

•        Supporting 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.  


Signed,

Rev. Richard Cizik, Vice President, National Association of Evangelicals*

Rabbi Steve Gutow, Executive Director, Jewish Council for Public Affairs

Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary, National Council of Churches

Dr.  Ingrid Mattson, President, The Islamic Society of North America

Fr. Larry Snyder, President, Catholic Charities, USA

Rev. David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World

Richard Stearns, President, World Vision

Rev. Jim Wallis, President, Sojourners

The Rt. Rev. Wayne Burkette, President, The Moravian Church, Southern Province

The Rt. Rev. David L. Wickmann, President, The Moravian Church, Northern Province

Rev. Jacob Jang, General Secretary, Korean Presbyterian Church in America

The Most Reverend Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop, The Episcopal Church

Stanley Noffsinger, General Secretary, Church of the Brethren

Rev. Dr. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ

Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Rev. Jim Winkler, General Secretary, The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society

Dr. Robert C. Andringa, President Emeritus, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities

Roberta  Avila, Executive Director, Mississippi Coast Interfaith Disaster Task Force

His Eminence Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, President, National Council of Churches

Dr. David R. Black, President, Eastern University*

Rev. Dr. Ken Brooker Langston, Coordinator, Disciples Center for Public Wellness, Church of Christ

Rev. Jennifer Butler, Director, Faith in Public Life

Sr. Simone  Campbell, Director, NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Dr. Tony Campolo, Eastern University, St. David's, PA*

Dr. Iva  Carruthers, General Secretary, Samuel Dewitt Proctor Convention

Rev. Alfred Carter, President, Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing

Rev. Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association

Charles  Clements, President and CEO, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee 

Dr. Luis Cortes, Executive Director, Nueva Esperanza

Dr. Paul Corts, President, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities*

Sr. Anne  Curtis, RSM, Leadership Team, Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas

Marie  Dennis, Co-President, Pax Christi International and Director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, President, Common Cause, Former General Secretary of the National Council of Churches

Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein, Executive Vice-President, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, Director, Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism

Mary Fontenot, Executive Director, All Congregations Together

Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President, Interfaith Alliance

Sharon Gauthe, Executive Director, Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing

Sr. Donna Graham, OSF, Franciscan Justice and Peace Office and OFM for Province of St. John the Baptist

Dr. David Gushee, Presidents, Evangelicals for Human Rights*

Rev. Dr. Derrick Harkins, Treasurer, Senior Pastor, World Relief, Nineteen Street Baptist Church*

Rev. Dr. Leo Hartshorn, Minister of Peace and Justice, Mennonite Mission Network, U.S. Ministries

Dr.  Frederick Haynes, III, Senior Pastor, Friendship West Baptist Church,  Dallas, Texas

Dr.  Obery  Hendricks, Professor of Biblical Interpretation, New York Theological Seminary, Author of "The Politics of Jesus"*

Bishop Thomas J.  Hoyt, Co-Chair, National Council of Churches Special Commission on the Just Rebuilding of the Gulf Coast

Dr. John  Huffman, Senior Pastor, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church*

Dr. George  Hunsinger, Professor, Princeton Theological Seminary, Founder, National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Dr. Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland, A Distributed Church*

Dr. Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, Professor of Christian Ethics and Theology, Drew University, Madison, NJ*

Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, Justice and Witness Ministry, United Church of Christ

David E. Jehnsen, Chair of the Board, Every Church a Peace Church

Ven. Michael S. Kendall, President, Episcopal Network for Economic Justice

Hon. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Author of "Failing America's Faithful", former Lt. Gov. of Maryland and Board Member, RFK Memorial

Rabbi Asher Knight, , Temple Emanu-El, Dallas Texas

Chris Kromm, Executive Director, Institute for Southern Studies, Author of "Faith in the Gulf"

Rabbi Irwin Kula, President, The Center for Leadership and Learning

Dr. Peter Kuzmic, Distinguished Professor, Gordon Cornwell Theological Seminary

Rabbi Michael Lerner, Founder, TIKKUN and Network of Spiritual Progressives

Rev. Michael E. Livingston, Co-Chair, National Council of Churches Special Commission on the Just Rebuilding of the Gulf Coast

Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, Founder and CEO, World Hope International

Renaye Manley, Organizaing Director, Interfaith Worker Justice

Bishop A.C. "Chip" Marble Jr., Assisting Bishop, Diocese of North Carolina, Greensboro Office*

Dr. Molly T. Marshall, President and Professor of Theology and Spiritual Formation, Central Baptist Theological Seminary

Rev. Timothy  McDonald III, President, African American Ministers in Action

Dr. Brian D. McLaren, best-selling Author, Pastor and intellectual leader of “emerging church,”*

Rev. LeDayne McLeese Polaski, Program Coordinator, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America

Fr. T. Michael McNulty, SJ, Justice and Peace Director, Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Rev. Gail E. Mengel, Ecumenical and Interfaith Officer, Community of Christ

Rabbi Jack Moline, Chair of the Board, Interfaith Alliance and Senior Rabbi, Agudas Achim Congregation

Rev. Jethroe Moore, II, President, San Jose NAACP

Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, Chair, Council of the Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago

Dr. Pamela Nath, , Listening & Discernment, Mennonite Central Committee

Sr. Ann Oestreich, IHM, Congressional Coordinator, Congregation Justice Committee, Sisters of the Holy Cross

Vicky Partin, Lay Missioner, Chattahoochee Valley Episcopal Ministry

Dr. Ron Patterson, Executive Director, Christian Disaster Response

Sara Pottschmidt Lisherness, Director, Compassion, Peace, and Justice Ministries, Presbyterian Church USA

Sr. Claire Regan, Office of Justice and Peace, Sisters of Charity of New York

Rev. Carl W. Rehling, Director, Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, Diocesan Liaison for Justice and Peace

Sr. Jane Remson, O.Carm. Main Representative to UN, Carmelite NGO Congregation of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Dr. Meg Riley, Director of Advocacy and Witness, Unitarian Universalist Association Congregation

Bill Robinson, President, Whitworth University*

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

Robert S. Runkle, Chair, Social Justice and Outreach Ministries Commission, Episcopal Diocese of Spokane

Dr. Andrew Ryskamp, Director, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee

Rev. Gabriel Salguero, Director, Hispanic/Latino Leadership Program, Princeton Theological Seminary*

Rev. Dr. Virginia Samuel, Interim Dean of Campus Life and Student Affairs, Drew University, Madison, NJ*

Sr. Marylin K. Scheib, Regional Administrative Office, Sisters of Mercy of the Regional Community of St. Louis

Rev. Bill Schulz, Chairman, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee Board of Directors

Rev. Dr. Ronald J. Sider, President, Evangelicals for Social Action

Dr. Ann E. Smith, President, Gamaliel Foundation

Rev.Dr. Cory Sparks, Chair, Commission on Stewardship of the Environment, Louisiana Interchurch Conference

Dr. Glen Harold Stassen, Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics, Fuller Seminary*

Rev. Ron Stief, Organizing Director, Faith in Public Life

Russ Testa, Executive Director, Franciscan Action Network

Rabbi Uri  Topolosky, Senior Rabbi, Congregation Beth Israel, A Community Synagogue in New Orleans

Rev. Romal  Tune, President, Clergy Strategic Alliances

Sr. Mari  Turgi, CSC, Director, Holy Cross International Office

Rabbi Stewart Vogel, President, Southern California Board of Rabbis

Rabbi Brian Walt, Executive Director, Rabbis for Human Rights

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Executive Director, Shalom Center

Alix Webb, Program Manager, The Poverty Initiative, Union Theological Seminary

Rev.Dr. C. David Williams, President, Union of Black Episcopalians

Dr. Lauren Winner, Assistant Professor of Christian Spirituality, Duke Divinity School, Duke University*

Rabbi David Wolpe, Senior Rabbi, Sinai Temple*

Dr. Aidsand Wright-Riggins III, Executive Director, National Ministries, American Baptist Church, USA

Dr. Amos Yong, Professor of Theology, Regent University School of Divinity*

Susan Youmans, Executive Director, Environmental Partnership

* Organization is listed for identification purposes only

CONTACT: Jeffrey Buchanan, 202-463-7575 ext 241, Charles Jackson, 504-943-0044 communications@acorn.org

NCC News Contact: Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228, NCCNews@ncccusa.org

 

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