[Episcopal News Service – Omaha, Nebraska] The Episcopal Church's Executive Council pledged Feb. 22 to stand by the Diocese of Haiti as it continues to minister to earthquake survivors and plans its long-term rebuilding efforts, while challenging the church to raise at least $10 million to help pay for that rebuilding.
The council said (via Resolution WM011) that "Haiti's recovery and
reconstruction must be directed by the Haitian people" and affirmed
"the authority of Bishop [Jean Zaché] Duracin and the leaders he
appoints to request and direct the resources required to rebuild the
damaged institutions and impacted congregations of the diocese."
Meanwhile, Executive Council also issued a message
to the church, saying that during its meeting it "was exhorted to
humility and patience, inspired to action in the cause of justice, and
reminded of the importance of the seemingly mundane."
"Meeting in the beginning of Lent we were constantly reminded of the
power of God in Jesus Christ to redeem and save, in the moment and for
all time," council said before going on to outline the results of its
work in Omaha.
The $10-million Haiti challenge grew out of council member Mark
Harris's call to the council to set aside a tithe from the remainder of
the church's 2010-2012 budget for the reconstruction of the church in
Haiti. He said that "the hurt to the family" in Haiti "requires a
pledge on our part that doesn't come from the largess or the abundance
of our lives, but comes from the core and, I would suggest, essentially
our flesh." Without such support, Harris said, the future of the church
in Haiti will "suffer in ways which we would be very sad to see happen."
Council members said they stand ready to receive Duracin's
assessment of the diocese's needs and will review the church's support
for the rebuilding effort at subsequent meetings. They also said the
council "strongly supports" Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts
Schori's "efforts to marshal the resources of the wider church" in
support of Haiti, and to work directly with Duracin "in ensuring these
resources are provided in the most effective manner."
Martha Gardener successfully asked her colleagues to commemorate the
death of Lisa Mbele-Mbong during the earthquake by having the council's
Haiti resolution state that relief and development efforts ought to
recognize the human rights and dignity of all Haitians, especially
vulnerable groups, and to ensure that Haitians are fully involved in
the planning and execution of all relief and development projects.
Mbele-Mbong, the daughter of Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe General Convention deputy Helena Mbele-Mbong and her husband, Samuel, was a human rights officer for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti. She died in the collapse of the UN building during the quake.
The resolution also commends the work of Episcopal Relief & Development and Haiti's neighbors in the Diocese of the Dominican Republic for their assistance.
In addition, the council urged Episcopalians to continue praying for
"our brothers and sisters in Haiti" during the Prayers of the People
and other occasions, and to support the long-term recovery effort
through continued donations to Episcopal Relief & Development's Haiti fund, "recalling that, as our Lord taught us, to care for the least fortunate among us is to care for him."
Earlier in the day, Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief &
Development senior vice president for programs, described the agency's
efforts in the month since the Jan. 12 magnitude-7 quake. Although
dealing with an almost unimaginable level of chaos during the two weeks
after the quake, Nelson said, the agency has thus far provided more
than 60 tons of food to survivors, is supplying at least 100 tents each
day after coping with a worldwide shortage, and continues to work on
various medical, sanitation, communication and other logistical needs.
She reported that the agency and diocese now believe that between
25,000 and 30,000 survivors are living in more than 60 settlements
connected to the diocese.
Nelson showed council an ongoing mapping project designed to help
the diocese and the wider church assess the extent of damage to
diocesan institutions and track relief efforts. The "extraordinary
information-gathering effort" is being led by the Rev. Lauren Stanley,
an Episcopal Church-appointed missionary to Haiti and Duracin's liaison
in the U.S., who is working with "an amazing crackerjack team" of four
young people using a map provided by the U.S. Army's Southern Command, Nelson said.
A partnership between the Episcopal Church in Haiti and the U.S.
Army "has rapidly formed since the earthquake," Nelson said. "We're
really the first religious organization to be working with the
government this way and the hope is that, longer term with a lot of
this information, we'll be better able to serve the people."
As rebuilding plans become clearer, Nelson said, her agency wants to
ensure that the work is done "in a way that doesn't just build back to
what was there before" but to add improvements "to invest in a better
future for everyone."
Meanwhile, Nelson said, Episcopal Relief & Development also
continues to work with its 46 partner countries and urged council
members to tell people not to forget "the wide need" around the world.
"We believe in a God of abundance and we know that as we move
forward we can help rebuild the church in Haiti and help engage with
all these other ministries," she said.