Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in September and 50% of the territory remains without electricity and access to basic supplies and food. Some have criticized the federal response to this climate-related disaster as “slow and “inadequate,” and it is important to ask ourselves, how does God want the U.S., faith communities, and individuals to respond?
As casualties increase and assistance is desperately needed to improve the situation for the residents of Puerto Rico, what do our faith traditions tell us about our role in aiding others?
Disaster Relief According to God’s Word
By responding to disasters and providing relief, humans lean on the very beliefs that have shaped religion for centuries. While Christians and followers of Judaism find their bearings in responding to these tragedies, Muslims generally contribute through charity to believers (Sahih Bukhari 55:558). In whatever way the holy words of God instructs believers - the main message is to recognize the need for help and lend a helping hand.
This was certainly the motivation for organizations like United Church of Christ, a group that embedded itself in Puerto Rico after the storm and worked alongside Samaritan's Purse, World Vision, and others.
Yet does not one in heap of ruins stretch out his hands, Or his disaster, therefore, cry out for help? Job 30:24
According to holy doctrine, disasters are ordained by God (Quran 57:22) and are meant to aid humanity in understanding their calling to care for the Earth. This side of a disaster is cause and effect. But, there is another side of disaster that calls for a deep commitment to faith.
READ: “Before Disaster Strikes,” by Reverend Jenny Phillips of United Methodist Committee on Relief.
Praying Through a Disaster
God-willing, many survivors of natural disasters will seek refuge through prayer. But not every person who experiences a tragedy like Hurricane Maria will believe in God’s grace and mercy. In cases such as these, faith leaders can make a world of difference.
Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, For my soul takes refuge in You; And in the shadow of Your wings, I will take refuge Until destruction passes by. Psalms 57:1
Prayer itself is a form of aid. But it cannot be unaccompanied by action. UCC's Zach Wolgemuth made this fact clear in his recent statement.
We stand ready to support our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico and call on all our churches to continue to pray and give financially for what will be a long road ahead.
With faithful prayer, relief, and support, there is yet another side to disaster; triumph. What role do believers play is helping other to overcome their circumstances?
Overcoming a Disaster
Disaster is not without cause and God’s word names sin as the cause of most tragedies. God is forgiving. Consider the famous words of Rabbi Nachman, which state that if one believes that something can be destroyed, they should also believe that it can be repaired.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18
In the case of Puerto Rico, a state that is still in the beginning phases of receiving aid after Hurricane Maria’s destruction, triumph may appear to be far off. However, thanks to faith-based humanitarian relief, some Puerto Ricans have hope. To overcome the disaster, more believers are needed to act in accordance with God’s holy word.
Ways to Get Help
Nichole Tucker earned a Master’s degree in Media & International Conflict from University College Dublin to help improve global issues, like climate change.