The aftermath of Hurricane Maria’s passage through Puerto Rico has created a humanitarian crisis that aggravated existing problems in the island’s economy, health, and education systems. At the moment, 34 deaths related to this phenomenon of nature have been reported. This has been the worst catastrophe of the century leaving the Puerto Rican people without water, food, electricity, health services, transportation and communications. There are people who were stripped of their homes, their jobs and most of the people were in communication with their loved ones and the outside world. In addition, animal deaths and near total loss of crops have been reported. The Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, estimated that the total losses will ascend to more than $ 600 million.
The US government has been criticized for not doing more to respond on time and serving the more than 3.4 million American citizens residing on the island. However, we have witnessed how the Puerto Rican people, the Puerto Rican diaspora, celebrities, government officials and countless supporters have come together to collaborate in the midst of this crisis.
The People of the United Methodist Church are people “rooted in our hope” and committed to our church being a “tree planted near the waters.” The verse of Job 14: 7, which says: “For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that its tender shoots will not cease;” inspires us to labor knowing that our hope is that Puerto Rico will be reborn again.
Call to Action:
MARCHA stands in solidarity with the People of Puerto Rico and with the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico at this critical moment. In consultation with the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico, MARCHA makes the following concrete proposals:
- MARCHA advocates for the following measures in favor of the people of Puerto Rico to respond to this humanitarian crisis. MARCHA requests the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church and the General Board of Church and Society that, as official entities of our denomination, prophetically challenge the United States Government (Legislative and Executive) with the following recommendations:
- Approve a fund for the recovery and reconstruction of the island and a package of legislative measures aimed to develop the economy of Puerto Rico.
- Permanently cancel the provisions of the Jones Act that apply to Puerto Rico, particularly about the air and naval “cabotaje” laws.
- Implement programs to improve the island’s health-care service, including the allocation of equitable payments and reimbursements through Medicare and proportionally funds to Medicaid as it is done in all 50 states.
- In the spirit of the jubilee year, request that the debt restructuring process of Puerto Rico be continued to significantly reduce it. MARCHA joins the many organizations that advocate for a debt audit. The process of debt restructuring should not cause suffering or increase the crisis of the people of Puerto Rico.
- MARCHA requests that the General Board of Global Ministries and UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) promptly allocate significant resources to assist in the recovery of the island.
- MARCHA asks the General Board of Global Ministries and the National Plan for Hispanic / Latino Ministry to establish a missionary position to coordinate Volunteer in Mission groups, raise donations, and organize the recovery process for congregations and ministries. In addition to this, to consider the creation of other mission placements as needs arise.
- MARCHA calls Annual Conferences and offices of Volunteers in Mission to encourage the creation of Volunteer in Mission Teams to go to Puerto Rico.
- MARCHA requests that the General Board of Global Ministries and the General Board of Higher Education and Ministries collaborate with the recovery efforts of the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico.
MARCHA calls the People of the United Methodist to:
- Pray for Puerto Rico.
- Send donations and supplies through UMCOR or directly to the Church of Puerto Rico
- Send Volunteer in Mission Groups to Puerto Rico.
- Develop “compañerismo/companionship” in mission among local churches to connect local churches in the United States with local churches in Puerto Rico.
Let us be trees planted near the waters so that we can witness the sprout of our people and that those tender shoots will not cease. Let us commit ourselves and accept the eternal challenge of Jesus to be “good Samaritans” when our neighbor is broken. Let us remain rooted in that hope that is based on the teachings of our unconditional companion, faithful friend and eternal Savior, Jesus.
On behalf of the MARCHA Board,
Rev. Lyssette N. Pérez President of MARCHA
Bishop Elías Galván Executive Director of MARCHA