For Immediate Release
Over 50 Christian, Jewish, Muslim Leaders Urge President Obama: Make Poverty, Climate and Coastal Restoration Priorities in Gulf Coast Recovery
NEW ORLEANS - As President Barack Obama arrives in New Orleans for this first visit since his historic election, over 50 leading religious officials and faith-based organizations are urging the President for robust federal long-term hurricane recovery policy to tackle poverty, coastal erosion and climate change. The signers include Rabbi Steve Gutow, Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, National Council of Churches; Sayyid M. Syeed, Islamic Society of North America; Sister Simone Campbell, NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby; Bishop Charles E. Blake, Church of God in Christ; Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, The Episcopal Church; Dr. Joel C. Hunter; Nancy Ratzan, National Council of Jewish Women; Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; Rev. Jim Wallis, Sojourners; and Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, Christian Church .
The letter explains, "Four years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck and the levees were breached, the slow pace of recovery, persistent poverty, climate change and coastal land loss have created a moral crisis across the region that demands a powerful response from people of faith and our elected officials." Organized by Louisiana-based interfaith groups All Congregations Together (ACT) and Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing (BISCO), the letter urges President Obama to look to a bipartisan bill, HR 2269, the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act, as a model for resident-led recovery policy to "ensure just and sustainable recovery for all Gulf Coast communities". HR 2269 would create 100,000 green jobs for hurricane survivors rebuilding affordable housing and infrastructure, restoring wetlands and promoting energy efficiency and climate change resiliency.
The letter was written in coordination with "Fighting Poverty with Faith" (www.fightingpovertywithfaith.com), an interfaith week of action October 14th-21st, 2009 focused on urging elected officials to make poverty-reduction a key goal in the nation's transition to a new green economy.
ACT and BISCO are co-founders of the Gulf Coast Civic Works Campaign (http://gccwc.wordpress.com), 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 2269 the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act.
[TEXT OF LETTER]
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We applaud your decision to travel to New Orleans to witness the state of recovery of the Gulf Coast. We also welcome the emphasis of this Administration on solving the bureaucratic struggles which hamper hurricane recovery funding from reaching the ground. Still, we are hopeful that after hearing from local leaders and hurricane survivors during your trip, you can return to Washington with a renewed understanding of the significant gaps that remain towards fulfilling the federal government's promises of rebuilding stronger, safer and more equitable Gulf Coast communities. Four years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck and the levees were breached, the slow pace of recovery, persistent poverty, climate change and coastal land loss have created a moral crisis across the region that demands a powerful response from people of faith and our elected officials.
Our national response to these natural and man-made disasters has yet to protect the well-being of the Gulf Coast's most vulnerable people and places through long-term policies which restore the environment, rebuild lives and respect human rights.
As communities of faith, we are grounded in a shared tradition of justice and compassion and we are called upon to hold ourselves and our nation accountable to the moral standard of this tradition. As we look across America's Gulf Coast, we see:
Ø Thousands living in toxic FEMA trailers as they struggle to rebuild their homes;
Ø Tens of thousands of displaced survivors unable to return home with dignity and safety;
Ø Homelessness and rental housing costs rising while affordable housing projects grind to a halt with the crash of financial markets;
Ø Insufficient access to health care facilities, particularly in the areas of mental health where needs for these facilities and services have grown substantially for survivors; and
Ø Many more unable to access proper training and living wage work to pay for life's necessities and find pathways out of poverty.
At the same time, Gulf Coast communities see deadlier storms, rising sea levels from climate change, and a majority of our nation's coastal erosion occurring each year along the Gulf of Mexico, further threatening the future of our communities.
This means that four years after our nation's largest disaster the survivors of these storms remain vulnerable; leaving a spiritual wound open across the region, one felt in God's creation and every community across this country. We must act now to target the challenges facing our most vulnerable communities; rebuilding more resilient and equitable neighborhoods, restoring God's creation and empowering our brothers and sisters to overcome the devastation and lift themselves from poverty.
While you visit New Orleans, faith communities across the country are engaging in an interfaith week of action "Fighting Poverty with Faith," October 14th-21st, 2009, in order to urge our elected officials to make poverty-reduction a key goal of the transition to a new green economy. Surely, no part of the country presents a greater need and opportunity for environmental restoration and economic revitalization than America's Gulf Coast.
Members of diverse faith communions have already responded generously to these disasters, 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 just recovery. Gulf Coast families deserve a federal government that recognizes their human rights and needs by partnering with them to rebuild and sustain their communities.
Billions in Congressionally appropriated funds remain un-obligated or unspent and could potentially be used to address unmet recovery needs in a pilot project for promoting innovative partnerships with local governments, faith-based and community organizations. A framework for accomplishing these goals already exists and continues to be embraced by a growing bi-partisan coalition of grassroots and elected leaders across the Gulf Coast. We urge your Administration and leaders in both parties of Congress to support policy based on the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act (HR 2269) to:
Ø Provide targeted training and hiring of residents and hurricane survivors for jobs;
Ø Rebuild affordable housing and vital community infrastructure;
Ø Restore natural flood protection, including barrier islands and wetlands;
Ø Promote energy efficiency and resiliency to future disasters and climate change;
Ø Make contracting and subcontracting opportunities accessible to local businesses; and
Ø Work with community and faith-based non-profits and local governments to plan and implement recovery projects to target the needs and ensure the rights of vulnerable populations, especially women, residents with disabilities, low income, minority, and immigrant communities.
We look forward to working with your Administration to ensure just and sustainable recovery for all Gulf Coast communities.
All Congregations Together (ACT) of New Orleans
Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing (BISCO)
Rabbi Steve Gutow
The Jewish Council of Public Affairs
The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon
National Council of Churches USA
Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed
Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances
Islamic Society of North America
The Most Rev. Charles E. Blake
Church of God in Christ
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church
Simone Campbell, SSS
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
President and CEO
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC)
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Dr. Raymond B. Goldstein, International President; and
Rabbi Steven C. Wernick, Executive Vice President and CEO
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt
Co-Chair Special Commission on the Just
Re-building of the Gulf Coast,
National Council of Churches
Dr. Joel C. Hunter *
Northland - A Church Distributed
Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo
Executive Minister of Justice and Witness Ministries
United Church of Christ
Women of Reform Judaism
Rev. Michael E. Livingston
Co-Chair Special Commission on the Just
Re-building of the Gulf Coast
National Council of Churches
Sr. Gayle Lwanga, RGS
National Advocacy Center
Sisters of the Good Sheppard
Rev. LeDayne McLeese Polaski
Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America
Stanley J. Noffsinger
The Church of the Brethren
SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT
Get our best delivered to your inbox.
President, National Council of Jewish Women
Dr. Meg Riley
Director, Washington Office
Unitarian Universalist Association
Rabbi David Saperstein
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Dr. H. Eric Schockman
MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger
Dr. Ronald J. Sider
Evangelicals for Social Action
Dr. Ann E. Smith
Rev. Jim Wallis
CEO and President
Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
The United Methodist Church - General Board of Church and Society
Bishop John F. White
Ecumenical and Urban Affairs Officer
African Methodist Episcopal Church
Dr. Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins III
Executive Director, National Ministries
American Baptist Churches USA
Rabbi Shawn Zevit
Director of Outreach and Tikkun Olam
Jewish Reconstructionist Federation
Episcopal Network for Economic Justice
Dr. Abed Ayoub
Islamic Relief USA
Rt. Rev. Duncan Gray
Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi
Rt. Rev. Charles E. Jenkins
Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana
Rt. Rev. William W. Hutchinson
Bishop, Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church
Rt. Rev. Morgan Ward
Bishop, Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church
Quo Vadis G. Breaux
Executive Director, Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal
New Orleans Rebirth Volunteer Center
Rev. Carol Burnett
Director, Mississippi Low Income Child Care Initiative
Director, Moore Community House
Rev. Al Carter
Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing (BISCO)
Rev. Alan Coe
Minister for Disaster Recovery,
S.C. Conference, United Church of Christ
Rev. Tyronne Edwards
Zion Travelers Cooperative Center, Inc. Phoenix, LA
Dr. Alice Graham
Mississippi Coast Interfaith Disaster Task Force
Coastal Women for Change
Dr. Frederick Haynes, III
Friendship West Baptist Church
Rev. Jacob Jang
Korean Presbyterian Church in America
David C. Jehnsen
Founder, The Institute for Human Rights and Responsibilities
Dr. Matthew V. Johnson
Every Church a Peace Church
Community Empowerment Coordinator
Hope Community Development Agency (Hope CDA)
Immaculate Heart Community Development Corp., Inc.
Desire Street Ministries/CDC 58:12 Inc.
Rev. Gilbert Scie
Pastor, Greater Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church of New Orleans
Rev. Cory Sparks
Chair, Commission on Stewardship of the Environment,
Louisiana Interchurch Conference
City Councilmember of Ward 2
Sister Mary Turgi
Holy Cross International Justice Office
Rev. Jim VanderWeele
Community Church Unitarian Universalist of New Orleans
* Organization listed for purpose of identification
This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.
Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Won't Exist.
Please select a donation method: