Carey lends political clout

Published December 1, 1998

Frustrated by lack of government assistance and dwarfed by the Roman Catholic population, Anglicans in Central America turned to the Archbishop of Canterbury for clout in getting help recovering from Hurricane Mitch’s devastation.

After receiving an appeal for help from Honduran Bishop Leo Frade, Archbishop George Carey met with the Honduran ambassador to Britain and “Anglicans are now well in the loop” of getting assistance from government sources, a spokeswoman for the archbishop said.

Victims of the hurricane are also receiving aid from a variety of independent groups in Central America, including the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, which has sent $25,000 to the region. The money did not go to the governments there. It was sent to Action by Churches Together, an ecumenical relief network.

Hurricane Mitch killed more than 11,000 people. Thousands are still missing and hundreds of thousands more have been left homeless after the devastating hurricane caused flooding and mudslides in Nicaragua and Honduras. El Salvador and Guatemala were also affected, although to a lesser extent.

Anglicans make up a small portion of the population in Central America. In Nicaragua, 90 per cent of people are Roman Catholic. In Honduras, the number is even higher at 96 per cent. Archbishop Carey met with the ambassador of Honduras after complaints Anglicans weren’t getting government assistance, even though Roman Catholics and some politicians were receiving food, water and other necessities.

Messages from Central America on the Internet told of the unfair distribution of aid.

In the early days of the disaster, Archdeacon John Park of the Episcopal Church of Honduras said “The government is distributing free food and water for the evacuation centres, but when we try to get some, we are told that it is all gone. Yesterday, the dean of the cathedral went to get some food for the refugees who were in the cathedral. He was told there was none. The Roman Catholic bishop then arrived, and he was given food. A few minutes later a couple of congressmen arrived, and the same person who had told our dean that there was no food helped them load their pickups with food!”

Archdeacon Park said the unfair treatment was no surprise.

“Here it is the rich and powerful who get everything. The congressmen and the Roman Catholic Church are powerful, and we are not.”

Moises Moraga, director of Christian Medical Action in Nicaragua, also wrote to the Primate’s Fund saying “some politicians have tried to take advantage by exclusively helping those who belong to the governing party. It’s incredible that in such crucial moments political polarization has to come to the fore.”

These complaints prompted Bishop Leo Frade of Honduras to write to the Archbishop of Canterbury, asking for help.

In a recently released statement, Archbishop Carey said he met with Roberto Flores-Bermudez, the ambassador of Honduras.

The Archbishop said he made a personal donation towards the church’s ministry in the disaster and appealed to people to be as generous as possible.

“It’s really important that the support get to Central America because the dimensions of this tragedy are overwhelming and we still don’t know the final tally,” said Eleanor Douglas, development co-ordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean for the Primate’s Fund.

About 70 per cent of the infrastructure in the affected countries has been destroyed in what weather experts have called “the most damaging hurricane to ever hit the Caribbean and Central America.”

Cities are in ruin and the crops that were ready for harvest have been destroyed. Massive areas of land have been transformed into mud flats concealing the rotting bodies of victims and carcasses of animals.

“The people that are affected by this tragedy are mostly poor, living in isolated, marginalized areas,” Ms. Douglas said.

Some aid groups are appealing for gas-powered stoves to eliminate the need for cutting wood for cooking to feed the homeless.

Donations to the PWRDF, earmarked Hurricane Mitch, will be forwarded to Christian aid groups in Central America.


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