Monday, September 26, 2005

A Reflection on Restoration and Empowerment - The Gulf Coast Disaster

The following is from Prayerful Reflections and Faithful Responses to the Gulf Coast Disaster, a free resource prepared by JustFaith Ministries. JustFaith offers gives permission to parishes to reprint this. Please simply acknowledge JustFaith Ministries in your reprint.

“Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am well pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit. He shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait for his teaching.” (Isaiah 42:1-4)

Only a storm can reveal all the weaknesses of a shelter. Stormy weather also shows us who our friends are, and tests the extent to which we are our neighbor’s keeper. Natural disasters expose and intensify existing social inequalities. They also call into question the role of governance and the rights of vulnerable people, as well as the responsibilities of neighbors, citizens, and faith communities. Katrina’s storm surge washed up a longstanding national disaster for everyone to see. This national catastrophe is evidenced by the erosion of social infrastructure that leaves the most vulnerable exposed to the elements, the neglect of inner city communities, and the ever-widening poverty gulf that is still defined in skin tones. In many ways events along the gulf coast represent a microcosm of the daily reality for too many people across the globe. Rather than pointing an accusatory finger and returning to our usual business, it is vital that we recognize our own complicity in this human catastrophe and reclaim our responsibilities as citizens and as Christians. Katrina offers this nation an opportunity to move beyond rebuilding toward social restoration. It is vital that people of faith along with those who are poor and afflicted are empowered to:
  • prayerfully reflect on the Gospels and our social teachings
  • question our underlying social patterns and cultural assumptions
  • reimagine the cities, the region, and this nation not just rebuilt, but transformed

For sure this will require more than a change in personal attitudes and social policies. Restoration seeks to redress the imbalances in all our relationships to neighbor, to nature, and to our Maker. The blueprint rests in the heart of our God, for it is God’s dream and God’s promise to give us a future full of hope. It is our task as communities of faith to give our people something worth living for.

Some additional readings:
Psalm 23 - God guides us even in dark times
Isaiah 43:1-3 - God has redeemed us called us by name
Jeremiah 29:7-15 - God’s plan is for our welfare, a future full of hope
Luke 6:16-21 - Jesus announces the great restoration in the synagogue at Nazareth

Some suggestions:

  • As the rebuilding process begins be vigilant that helping agencies enter into partnership with those most afflicted, offering choices as well assistance, empowerment opportunities as well as relief.
  • Find out how your parish, school and diocese are connected with national empowerment agencies like Catholic Charities and Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
  • Contact the legislative advocacy committee in your diocese to create opportunities for your parish or school to connect with legislators and representatives and promote structural changes.
  • Do not allow this event to overshadow other international and local realities of need—personally or in your community.