Faith leaders urge long-term solutions for Gulf Coast

More than 100 religious leaders have urged the federal government and both major political parties to develop long-term solutions to address poverty and environmental concerns along the Gulf Coast.

In an attempt to solve what they called a "moral crisis," the religious leaders sent the statement to national leaders of both parties to urge them to restore the Gulf Coast communities by creating resident-led partnerships that will enable residents to help rebuild their communities.

The statement also called for government officials to increase federal and state funding for affordable housing and coastal wetland restoration, and to implement a flood control system to protect the communities from future severe weather.

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

Hurricanes Ike and Gustav reminded the nation that there is still work to be done in the Gulf Coast, and the slow recovery from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita has left many survivors unable to return to their communities, the leaders said.

"While the nation has learned to better prepare for this latest hurricane ... we have still failed to protect the well-being of Gulf Coast survivors," they said.

While the statement acknowledged previous relief efforts and praised volunteers of all faiths, it cited "years of improper stewardship" and inadequate flood protection as violations of human rights.

"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," they said.

Among the people to sign the statement were Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Richard Stearns, president of World Vision; Rabbi Steve Gutow, executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America; and the Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA.

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