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Faiths have local networks for disaster response

As reports of deaths tolls mounting grew to more than 5,000, and reports of 4.4 million people being displaced came through media, local, regional, national and international response to Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) on Nov. 8 in the Philippines were underway.  Then tornadoes tore through the U.S. Midwest on Nov. 17.  Meanwhile cleanup and rebuilding continues following damage from Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast of the U.S. last year.

Websites of faith-based disaster relief agencies revealed the perspective that as each new natural disaster unfolds, relief is poised to be sent and appeals are ready to be made because each entity recognizes it is part of a larger, cooperative response effort.

ACT (Action by Churches Together) Alliance at brings together 140 churches and organizations in 140 countries to create sustainable change in the lives of poor, marginalized people, regardless of their religion, politics, gender, sexual orientation, race or nationality.  It mobilizes about $1.5 billion for work in humanitarian aid, development and advocacy.  It is rooted in the communities it serves, building grassroots trust and respect, and maintaining commitments after world attention shifts.

One task is to support survivors of disasters.  Its 130 member organizations include Church World Service, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, International Orthodox Christian Charities, Lutheran World Relief, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, Christian Aid and more.

It has issued a $14 million appeal.  By Nov. 22, food parcels, tents, psychosocial support, hygiene kits and sanitation and hygiene programs were reaching survivors in villages through the ACT Alliance member, the National Council of Churches of the Philippines.  With the infrastructure collapsed, ACT works with local entities so those who survived the typhoon do not die of hunger.

Partners International, which has headquarters in Spokane, said Haiyan, the strongest recorded typhoon in 30 years, has brought pain, loss and suffering to millions who are displaced and thousands who have lost their lives.

Its partner, the Philippine Missionary Fellowship, has received phone calls from pastors and churches on neighboring islands, reporting roofs blown off homes and churches, and wooden buildings destroyed.  There is need for building materials, food and emergency supplies in areas where churches and homes have been damaged or destroyed, said Partners International.

Church World Service at has been working with CWS-Asia/Pacific and its partners, to set up an operation center in the Colegio de la Immaculada Concepcion in Bogo, Cebu. The operation center works as a hub for all its activities in the region, from procurement to distribution.  CWS coordinates efforts of its 37 U.S. Protestant and Orthodox member communions, often working through ACT Alliance.

An International Caritas Humanitarian Team of Catholic Relief Services at has linked with local parishes and Caritas staff in Tacloban and Ormoc. A local seminary is an evacuation center where local Caritas and church volunteers are helping more than 500 survivors. Caritas Philippines is distributing aid and trucking food and water through its local network.

World Relief at is partnering with Philippine Relief and Development Services, Inc., to assist typhoon victims.  It has mobilized and deployed rapid assessment teams, supporting local churches and collaborating with government bodies and other faiths to coordinate disaster response.

World Vision at is putting together resources to assist 1.2 million people, including food, hygiene kits, emergency shelter and protection.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee at and American Jewish World Service at are collecting donations for relief efforts.

Islamic Relief at is gathering resources and sending personnel to help with emergency efforts, creating strategies to help people in efficient ways.

Each church and faith has agencies for channeling disaster relief aid and for organizing recovery efforts.

Copyright © December 2013 - The Fig Tree