In Houston, Katrina Relief Efforts Involved Many Faiths, One Purpose

September 1, 2006

Source: Houston Chronicle

On September 1, 2006 the Houston Chronicle reported, "Even today, members of Houston's diverse religious communities look back on the days immediately following Hurricane Katrina and see a minor miracle.

For some it is captured in the memory of Muslims in hijab, Hindus and Sikhs in salwar-kameez, Jews in kippot and Catholic nuns in habits, as they streamed across the intersection of Woodway and Voss and into the sanctuary of one of America's most prominent evangelical Baptist churches.

In the course of five days straddling Labor Day weekend a year ago, leaders and more than 44,000 members of Houston's many religious communities gathered at the Woodway campus of Second Baptist Church to organize what they called Operation Compassion. They were there to organize and train to feed storm evacuees who had sought shelter in the George R. Brown Convention Center. It was a call issued by the city's interfaith leadership and the Rev. Ed Young, the church's pastor and a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

'It will go down as a highlight of my career not only in the fact that we were there but that in that sanctuary of God there could be an expression of many faith traditions,' said Elliot Gershenson, president and CEO of Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston, which helped recruit volunteers.

'What Ed did was invite to his pulpit a Muslim leader, a Jewish leader and a Christian leader to give greetings. I think it was a gracious thing to do, and I think it was a unifying moment in the city.'

As buses full of evacuees arrived in Houston, religious communities throughout the area emerged to help care for suffering neighbors from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

Spurred on by Mayor Bill White, the area's religious communities tapped into their memberships for money, volunteers, expertise and care."