New York, February 21, 2007 - On Ash Wednesday, when many Christians around the world begin the season of Lent, a time of self-examination, a special commission of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) issued a report on how local, state and federal government in the Gulf Coast region have contributed to hardships for millions of victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
After more than a half a dozen post-Katrina trips to the Gulf Coast region and extensive on-the-ground analysis, the NCC's Special Commission on the Just Rebuilding of the Gulf Coast gave low marks across the board to local, state and federal governments. The report card reviewed response and rebuilding efforts in the city of New Orleans, the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and the federal government in areas such as transportation, healthcare, housing, schools, insurance, and environmental justice.
"The Special Commission's task has been to monitor events on the ground in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita and to give voice to justice issues in the rebuilding efforts," said NCC's President, the Rev. Michael Livingston. "The Commissioners have discovered an atmosphere of neglect and injustice that is unacceptable."
Entitled, "Report Card: The Triumphs and Struggles in the Just rebuilding of the Gulf Coast," the report is critical of government's initial and ongoing response to hurricane victims. It also highlighted the pivotal role that churches played in saving lives and rebuilding the community. Churches and other faith groups "have reached out across the nation to supply food, clothing, and shelter for those displaced by the hurricanes," says the report. "Churches have especially been lauded as the first responders on the ground in the days after Hurricane Katrina hit."
The Special Commission was formed in September 2006 in response to the spiraling neglect present in the Gulf Region after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Commissioners representing NCC-member communions and denominations convened for the first time in Louisiana in November 2005, a few months after the storms ravaged the Gulf Coast, to analyze on-the-ground progress post-Katrina. The Special Commission has since toured the Mississippi coast, met with religious leaders and community members in New Orleans, and is currently planning a delegation visit to the Mississippi and Louisiana governors' offices.
"Jesus calls us to love our neighbor," said the Rev. Bob Edgar, NCC general secretary. "It is this neighborly love combined with our charge to bring forth justice and compassion in the world that draws us to work diligently in the rebuilding efforts of the Gulf Coast."
NCC News contact: Dan Webster, 212.870.2252, NCCnews@ncccusa.org