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;
vIncreasing 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 Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop, The Episcopal Church Dr. 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 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 Sr. Marie Dennis, Co-President, Pax Christi USA 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