Top U.S. Religious Leaders Press for Moral Hurricane Response

More than 100 Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders signed onto a statement Monday to call on the U.S. government to work across party lines to create a human rights-based recovery policy for Gulf Coast families affected by hurricanes.

The statement, the faith leaders explain, comes in the wake of Hurricane Ike – a monster of a storm the size of Texas – that brought back memories of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and its residents.

After more than three years, the government still has not completed rebuilding the region ravaged by hurricanes, they criticized.

In addition to the slow pace of recovery, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita also led to problems such as the collapse of local institutions, homelessness, internal displacement, poverty, abusive labor practices and environmental degradation.

"Our God is a God of justice, of humanity and of healing, and this moral injustice calls each of us to bold action in support of the common good," reads the statement by the religious leaders.

"As people of faith and as Americans we believe in transcendent human dignity and place our trust in basic human rights."

The statement urges solutions that are resident-led including ones that help families return and participate in rebuilding their communities, create living wage jobs, restore the coastal wetland and ensure that human rights along the Gulf Coast is a national moral priority.

Hurricane Ike and Gustav displaced more than a million people from their homes. Tens of thousands of people are currently said to be awaiting food, water, electricity to return to their homes, as well as a shower in Texas, according to The Associated Press on Tuesday.

In Texas alone about 2 million people are without power.

President Bush on Tuesday was in Texas surveying the damage from Ike, and urged Americans to donate to help Gulf Coast victims recover.

Christian relief groups such as the Salvation Army, World Vision, the relief arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, Operation Blessing International, and Samaritan's Purse are working to feed, provide showers for, and meet other needs of affected Texans.

"We have learned that acts of faith and mercy alone, no matter how profound, cannot provide everything needed for a sustainable recovery," the interfaith statement reads.

"The government must empower local communities to take the lead in rebuilding their neighborhoods, renewing their lives, and restoring God's creation," they say. "We believe it is a moral obligation for the federal government to fulfill its promises for Gulf Coast recovery: empowering residents to return and participate in equitably rebuilding their communities."

Faith leaders that signed the statement included the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches; the Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president of National Association of Evangelicals; Richard Stearns, president of World Vision; Rabbi Steve Gutow, executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Dr. Ingrid Matterson, president of the Islamic Society of North America; Fr. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA; the Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World; and the Rev. Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners.