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Disasters epitomize globalization
of faith communities’ caring

Mary Stamp - Editor

The earthquake in Haiti reminds us we are part of the wider world.  It is, as many disasters, in an area already served by church and faith organizations who have been present for years with people and who plan to continue their presence.  That’s globalization for the faith community.

The Action of Churches Together (ACT) Alliance website lists responses in December to other recent disasters—assisting displaced people in Darfur in Sudan, 3.5 million people uprooted by conflict in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, earthquake and cyclone victims in Malawi, post-cyclone rebuilders in Burma (Myanmar), and survivors of Tamil Nadu floods in India and a flood in Mauritania.  Globalization means awareness.
Still on ACT’s agenda are responses after typhoons in Southeast Asia and the Philippines, floods and earth slides in El Salvador, a West Sumatra earthquake in Indonesia, floods in South China in 2009, as well as the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province in China and 2007 cyclone relief in Madagascar.  Work teams from the Northwest still go to help rebuild New Orleans, damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Globalization requires long-term presence and commitment.

The list of places where faith and voluntary communities are serving people who suffer keeps growing from human and natural disasters. Unlike media who rush to a crisis, interest and concern of people of faith does not wane is days, weeks, months or years.  Faith groups encourage members to visit to establish relationships.  Globalization means ongoing partnership. 

People of faith find different ways to respond, using their skills to educate in their own churches and communities or going to share their skills in medical care, construction, education, engineering or other trades and professions.  Most work quietly in the background, not promoting their faiths or their way, as they work beside people of different cultures, languages, instincts and skills.  Globalization respects  the integrity of people in a communities and nations.

Relief and development organizations of Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Christian and other faiths or perspectives work side-by-side, learning to respect each other’s insights and gifts in the process of supplying clean water, shelters, medicines and food for victims of disasters and inequities.  Globalization is ecumenical and interfaith.

As lives far away are disrupted, people pray, console the grieving, rejoice for the living, find simple tasks to do and allow their lives to be disrupted to help people restore their lives, infrastructures and buildings.  Globalization stirs caring.

People of faith have been present with Haitians in their suffering for decades.  Their commitment was evident in the loss of lives in Haiti including many people from many nations.  Globalization means accompaniment—solidarity with people—and sharing in loss and suffering.

We are there, because we love—as family, friends, partners and strangers—knowing our lives, economies, politics and faiths are interconnected.  Reports continue to flow in of people who are in or going to Haiti.  Reports continue to flow in of the generosity of congregations in the region, of fund-raising concerts and special worship services.  Globalization means mutual responsibility and accountability.

The far off is brought near by the many personal ties people in the region have around the world.  We keep almost instantly informed thanks to today’s media.  Although mainstream news media may seem intrusive, they are our first sources, alerting us, raising concern, taking us there with compelling immediacy.  Our global ties are possible because of both global commercial as well as faith-community media.