Disaster Management and Faith – How do They Work Together?

A group of faith-based organizations is ready to commit to building resilient communities across Asia in the aftermath of natural disasters – according to an article by the Inter Press Service, published on the Thomson Reuters Foundation website.

This group of faith-based organizations (FBOs) including Caritas Asia, Soka Gakkai International (SGI) and the ACT Alliance, merely wants to help – and there’s clearly a need. According to the article, in 2011 alone, global economic losses from extreme weather events amounted to $366 billion – 80 percent of those losses were in the Asia-Pacific region.

Although that region makes up 39 percent of the world’s land area and is home to 60 percent of the global population, it only holds 29 percent of the wealth on the planet, meaning when disaster strikes, things can get tight. The FBOs feel they can fill this gap, and presented their commitment to help at the sixth Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, an annual collaboration with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. Its goal is to “bring regional stakeholders together to discuss the specific challenges facing Asia in an era of rapid climate change.”

“It’s not about the goods we bring or the big houses we build,” said Jessica Dator Bercilla, a representative of Christian Aid. She explained the most important thing religious organizations can do is convince people they are not alone as they rebuild their homes and their lives after a disaster.

In a statement, the FBOs say they want to be recognized by the UN as a unique stakeholder in the Post-2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. According to the article, the statement also “wants national and local governments to include FBOs when they organize regular consultations on DRR with relevant stakeholders, as FBOs are the ones who often sustain development programs in the absence of international NGOs.”

“We would like to be one of the main players in the introduction of the DRR policy,” said Takeshi Komino, head of emergencies for the ACT Alliance’s Asia-Pacific region. “We are saying we are ready to engage.”

Nobuyuki Asai, program coordinator of peace affairs for SGI, added, “What our joint statement points out is that our commitment is based on faith and that is strong. We can be engaged in relief and recovery activity for a long time.”

According to the article, “experts say Asia is an excellent testing ground for the efficacy of faith-based organizations in contributing to disaster risk reduction.”

Though some people believe religious differences in communities could make it hard for FBOs to bring people together and help, Dr. Anil Kumar Gupta, head of the division of policy planning at the National Institute of Disaster Management in India, sees it differently.

“When there is a disaster people forget their differences,” he said. “I have seen the aftermath of disasters, where religious leaders and volunteers from Hindu temples, Islamic organizations and Sikh temples work together like born brothers.”

 

For the original article, click here: http://www.trust.org/item/20140625161437-39zgo/