Doing Better at Caring for Each Other
by Paul Chaffee
Andy Jabbour is co-founder and managing director of the Faith-Based Information Sharing and Analysis Organization in Leesburg, Virginia. The group became a nonprofit last year, he says, with “the aim of forming a network of US houses of worship and faith-based charities to equip them against security threats, from arson and active shooter situations to hacked emails.” Religion News Service featured the project last month in an article titled “For Houses of Worship, Interfaith Collaboration is the Future of Security.”
Safety is already on the agenda of most of the hundreds of interfaith nonprofits across the US and globally. But the renewed surge in safety-based interreligious coalitions is one more example of how manmade disaster aimed at religious communities has become an equal-opportunity phenomenon. We are witnessing one violent religiously motivated tragedy after another.
The good news is that over the past half century a number of interfaith leaders have devoted their lives and passion to providing the leadership and resources for communities to become expert in disaster response, both manmade and natural. This surge of collaborative interfaith organizing began following Hurricane Camille in 1969. At TIO we never expected such a treasure trove of material when we turned to this theme. We ran into such a flood of material that, for the first time, TIO is taking two months to focus on interfaith disaster response, this June issue and July’s.
Next month we will lead with a profile of three interrelated, collaborative organizations that represent the backbone of faith-based disaster response activities today – National VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster), NDIN (National Disaster Interfaiths Network), and NYDIS (New York Disaster Interfaith Services). You may wish to reprint that July survey for your own community – its packed with resources and opportunities.
This month we begin by briefly examining the modern history of disaster, starting with the 1755 earthquake, fire, and tsunami suffered in Lisbon, and at some of the theological issues it fomented. Then you’ll find a TIO Report on where to turn in your own tradition to get involved in responding.
The rest of the theme-based articles this month are reflections on how the interfaith movement is facilitating disaster response, how to do better, and stories of how effective interfaith-based response can be when congregations reach out to their neighbors from different traditions in times of disaster.
The English word disaster originally derives from two Greek words meaning “bad star,” an astrological jab at the heavens for causing the disasters we suffer. Today there are still those who preach that disaster is an appropriate response of an angry god. But unpacking bad theology is not the purpose here; rather it is to inspire each of us to be more effective, caring agents when we see sisters and brothers suffering disaster. At one level this drives to the heart of the interfaith movement, so learning more about the subject seems totally appropriate here in the middle of 2019. This generation and the next will be suffering the growing disasters of an overheated planet, so the time is nigh to hone our compassionate skill-sets and get involved.
Header Photo: Unsplash