A diverse group of faith-based organizations has raised $4.5 million for two disaster relief funds that will aid affordable-housing projects, help rebuild small businesses and develop community centers on the Gulf Coast.
Reputation and Web use noted as factors in donor preference
Sep 19, 2006
A year ago, Americans started signing checks and clicking on Web links to raise an estimated $4.2 billion in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the most they have ever donated in response to a natural disaster, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
New fault lines are complicating the already daunting challenge of recovering from last October’s killer earthquake in the Himalayan foothills of northern Pakistan. As tens of thousands of survivors brace for the coming winter, relief groups are caught in a religious squeeze play that makes recovery and reconstruction even more difficult.
After weeks of Israeli-Hezbollah fighting, waves of people from southern Lebanon holding white flags continued to travel toward Beirut as major relief and church agencies warned that the country faces a humanitarian disaster because of severe difficulties in providing assistance.
The executive director of the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund has resigned her post after prominent members of the fund’s religious advisory committee quit and harshly criticized the manner in which the fund made grants to houses of worship.
Those weathering Katrina’s aftermath see no end in sight. “It's going to go on for years,” says United Methodist bishop Hope Morgan Ward. "For years and years." “We’re not back to normal, and I don’t know what that would be like,” says Nelson Roth, pastor of Gulfhaven Mennonite Church in Gulfport, Mississippi.
Tsunami survivor Marzuki Arsyad, 34, was luckier than some in Banda Aceh—his wife was unharmed because she was working outside the city. Even so, on December 26, 2004, this pedicab driver and fisherman lost 13 relatives as well as his home. The death toll in Indonesia’s Aceh province was 170,000; 500,000 became homeless.
When Nadarajah Arulnathan visits his church at Pasikudah, he puts on a surgical mask because along the way he must pass rotting bodies tangled in the underbrush. They can’t be removed because of the landmines, washed loose from a nearby military base and scattered across the land. The church sanctuary is battered but still stands.
Although tsunami recovery supplies destined for nations bordering the Indian Ocean were slowed at first by transportation bottlenecks and chaotic conditions, churchgoers were able to speed generous donations via computer to relief agencies responding to the widespread tragedy.
Church aid agencies working in Iraq are pulling out international staff, reviewing their programs in the face of continuing violence, and in at least one instance considering suspending operations altogether, the Geneva-based Action by Churches Together (ACT) International alliance announced last month.