Written by Daniel Hazard
In its bid to boost U.S. response to the Oct. 8 earthquake that rocked Pakistan/Kashmir, the UCC's Wider Church Ministries is appealing for stepped-up support from congregations and individuals.
Described as the region's most catastrophic earthquake ever, the death toll continues to escalate, with an estimated 90,000 people now dead and at least 3 million injured, homeless or abandoned in winter-weather conditions.
According to Debra Frantz, Global Ministries' program associate for southern Asia, there are at least fi ve times more people left homeless by the Pakistan/Kashmir earthquake than were left homeless by the tsunami last December.
Massive rescue and relief operations are underway. However, bad weather and aftershocks have created hazardous conditions, including landslides. Worse, global response has been far from adequate, prompting the United Nations to appeal urgently for more international aid.
Susan Sanders, the UCC's minister for the global sharing of resources, reports the situation is critical for those without shelter, food, water and other basic supplies. Because of the harsh conditions, there is a real risk that people will freeze to death for lack of adequate shelter, she says.
"We plan that, as part of Church World Service, we'll work with 20,000 families to provide immediate shelter and longer-term house construction," says Sanders, who estimates the UCC will be involved in Pakistan/Kashmir's recovery for 5-to-8 years.
Gifts to the UCC's One Great Hour of Sharing special mission offering are being used to support relief efforts orchestrated by Church World Service/Pakistan, the National Council of Churches of Pakistan and the Church's Auxiliary for Social Action.
The UCC's dollars are being utilized by partners to rush aid to survivors, including tents and blankets for those in snow-covered regions.
Sanders understands that the request for Pakistan/Kashmir comes at a time when churches and members are responding generously to other disasters, especially those affected by hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. However, the need in Pakistan/Kashmir is also urgent and critical, she says.
"I know we all get many requests to contribute to so many good causes and organizations, but we've learned how to make our choices," she says. "And when I look at what I'm asked to contribute to, giving to and through the church is at the top of my list."
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