The Role of Congregations in Public Health Emergencies - Transcript

Moderator: Haley McCalla
Presenters: Peter B. Gudaitis, M.Div.
Date/Time: January 23, 2019, 1:00 – 2:00 pm ET

Haley McCalla: Good afternoon, everyone. My maim is Haley McCall La and I’m appointed to centers for preparedness and response division of emergency operations. Thank you for joining us for today’s epic webinar entitled role of congratulations in public health emergencies. Today, we will hear from Peter GUDAITIS. If you do not wish for your participation to be recorded, please exit at this time. You can earn completing education by completing this webinar. Instructions can be found on our website, Access code is epic 0123 with all letters capitalized. To repeat, the course access code to receive continuing education is in all caps epic 0123. Today’s webinar is interactive to make comments click on the chat box. To ask questions, use the Q&A button. The Q&A will begin after the preventer has prevented. Closed captioning is available for this webinar. Details are on the screen and in the chat box. We are very fortunate to have Peter GUDAITIS as our speaker today. Peter is the president of the disaster interfaith network and director of New York interFaith services. He has over 30 years experience in disaster emergency management, faith-based philanthro pi, program management, and social service administration. His experience includes a decade in emergency medical services. Additionally, Peter has received many local and national honors and appointments. In 2018, he was appointed to the New York State Puerto Rico recovery and reconstruction committee by governor Cuomo. Thank you for joining us today, Peter. Please begin.

Peter Gudaitis: Thanks for having me. Just so everyone is aware some of the slides in the deck were written by the U. S. C. center and civic can offer for the department of Homeland Securities emergency management institute and they offer some of this information and anion line course called FEMA 505 individual study 505, which you can take online by Googling FEMA 505. Slide. We’re going to be talking about faith communities in the broader context of how they fit into communities as a whole, which has been an emphasis of FEMA going back 10 years to how we look at faith communities as partners with government and the private sector and building resilience and responding to crisis around the country. Slide. We want to emphasize that communities cannot truly achieve resilience without figuring out how to integrate faith sector, preparedness, and response capabilities into interacting with the human services and government sectors that we continue to look at how we explore partnerships between these sectors rather than operating in silos. Slide. So resilience, from our perspective, and from I think using the language of emergency management is about how we can equip communities to bounce back, if you will, more quickly from adversity and your resilience factor is based on how quickly you can return to some semblance of normal function and sustainability and the longer that takes, obviously, the more truncated recovery becomes and individual people can fall out of being serviced, being supported. So emphasizing that faith communities play a role in that, we want to make sure faith communities are not left out of the conversation, they are a part of it, they are at the table, if you will, to make sure the whole community remains resilience. When we talk about the aspects that faith communities bring, it is something we have to be aware of across faith communities, and with nonprofit sectors that falls under VOAD, volunteer organization act for disasters, we’re going to talk about that later. We have to focus on more than just congregations, their understanding of service that they will seven, the question is, will they serve in a skilled and collaborative way or will they serve on their own. Faith communities are typically trusted and moral authority and legitimacy as partners, they are well resourced, space, money, logistics, they have intimate knowledge in communities and networks and building partnerships, as well as connecting national emergencies to local communities. They are well networked, they offer many types of programs, not just worship, but also human services, volunteers, fundraising, equipment, and many other, many other skill sets. They also have staying power. Equipping them early in the response makes sure there are competent leaders after many other groups have left. Slide. For this presentation, I want to be clear in literacy versus competency. Literacy, for a lack of better way of putting it is the stuff of religion, what people believe, how they worship, what they wear, what they eat and competency is how we navigate those things, how do we understand the rituals, beliefs, and burial customs or eating practices of unique populations so we can better support them in times of crisis or equip them to support themselves. Slide. So this isn’t sort of political correctness. I understand how some people think that at some level, however, this really is about skills for actually completing our mission assignments. How do we understand culture and religion, how does that affect how people recovery, how they understand mental health services, medical intervention, how they understand preparedness, how do they understand vaccines and how they work, all of these things are about building trust and building our ability to work more effectively. Slide. Here is a set of resources I just want general awareness around. FEMA 5705, which is free online. You get a certificate if you’re into hanging certificates in your always. Within that curriculum there are three tip sheets that we wrote for FEMA E. M. I., one on how you engage with communities, develop a plan for that engagement, cultural competency, at a uniquely distinct from religion outside competency and a reference, quick reference guide on other resources and tools. Slide. These are two page tip sheets on how each of the faith communities are structured, how they are lead at the regional level, local level, who are the best outreach points of contact, how they are lead in term obviously ordained leadership, what the best approach is and what are unique attributions of the faith communities that we should be aware of before approaching them, for instance, not trying to do outreach to Synagogues on Friday in the afternoon because the Sabbath is approaching and people are focused on that, which runs through Saturday evening, so Sunday perhaps is a better weekend day to work on engagement in the Jewish community. Next slide. This is also a resource that FEMA published this year. Sorry, last year, 2018, on better engagement strategies and best practices, methodologists for emergency managers, which includes public health officials and several of the resources I’m talking about are listed in this guide, but it is also free. You can download it online, on FEMA’s website. Slide. These are two other resources, a field guide for doing better faith-based engagement between the government and faith sector with an temp pa fa sis — emphasis with how the government can do better and it talks about two or three pages per movement per faith tradition, what unique things someone in an emergency manage or public health might need to know during a time of crisis, including burial practice, prohibitions in medical intervention, mental health care, physical touch between people that sort of thing. Slide. That resource and the rest are available for free on our website, this is the website, There are tip sheets provided by other best practices partners, the two most popular is active shooter in a place of worship and working with children in disasters, but there is a variety of different practices. All of these were written based on feedback following 9/11 and Katrina about topics they wish they knew more about prior to the disaster. This is about building skills of leaders in feat communities, both lay and ordained to make sure they have a basic understanding of life cycle services and prevention. Slide. Slide. These are five tip sheets on faith communities that have unique dietary, dress, physical touch, sheltering needs. They have been co-branded with the American Red Cross, which shares them with their shelters around the country, but they are a great resource in terms of, particularly working with mass care so feeding and sheltering. Slide. This is a curriculum and there are others. This was written for a multi-Faith audience, there are faith tradition specific that should all focus, if they are competent on an understanding of mental health, first aid, psychological first aid, spiritual care interventions, and the operations of working as a disaster chaplain in the field, not process laitiesing in mass care settings, making sure providers understand that they are there to provide emotional and spiritual care to all faith traditions or none. Slide. This is another great resource written specifically for religious professionals and how they understand and practice psychological first aid. I certainly encourage folks to take a look and use that as a resource. This was produced by health and human services, with a lot of trusted community-based partners. Slide. This is the last resource, this is a great book. I received no royalties for pushing it. On a basic understanding of a role that religion has played and unique aspects of all faith communities that Americans should have an understanding of. We are the most religious diverse Tikuns in the world, but we lack public education, so most Americans, unless they choose to take these studies in college do not have an academic or historical understanding of faith traditions other than their own, if they understand their own very well without a more formal education exposure at the congregational level, so this is something we need to work on if we’re going to build better competency in our society and government. Slide. Next slide. About 83% of Americans, that number has dropped a little bit over the past few years, are affiliated with a specific religious tradition. By specific, I mean they don’t say they are Christian, but they say they are Presbyterian or trueland Buddhist. There are 345,000 schools of religion. They are most easily access public building in any community. About 60% of Americans report first to their religious leader for advice or after a disaster, this is a study called the ripple effect and 40% of Americans overall, that means religious and nonreligious Americans, which are called nones trust clergy as a whole. It might seem like a large number but it is a large number for those people who turn for advice after a disaster. Since the 1960’s, the landscape has changed. The resettlement that began after the Korean and Vietnam Wars of bringing resettled refugee populations into the country. This has brought enormous change in social culture and ethnic and linguistic diversity in the United States and what the indigenous cultures, since America was partially French, English, dutch in the Colonial area. All native languages, of course, English in the northeast and French, which has adapted into Creole in parts of the south all have, you know, roots, if you will over centuries in our country and that diversity exists at the rural and urban setting. It is a mistake to think it only exists in big cities, that is untrue. Diversity is complex and makes serving communities more challenging and although we’re going to talk about some national trends in religious diversity, we also have to remember to look at local cultural contacts. We are the most religious observant country in the world by far, the next is England and we are three times more observant than they are. Next slide. This is a look at how that changes over time also. So we saw about 83% of Americans are religiously observant, but 40% of people between 18-30 are not religious adherence. The implications is this is shifting in our society. As we look at how we engage faith-based organizations and how we resource them and what role they play in national VOAD, we have to look at some of these downward trends and upward trends to help our partners figure out where they need to build capacity and build volunteers. For instance, it would be a mistake for white Evangelical organizations to rely on retirees without looking at how to raise up youth volunteer core as well, because that is a demographic that falls off quickly for them in the next 10 or 20 years. So there is huge increases in communities of color that are observant so Hispanic Catholic growth is significant, black Protestant growth has remained the same, white Evangelical and white mainland has shrunk and continues to do so generationally. Next slide. As I said before, 200 faith traditions practiced here, 70% of our country identifies as Christian with a 40% adherence rate so that is one or more times a month going to worship. 6% of our population is not Christian so the largest is Jewish at 2% and Islam is about 1% and it goes down from there, we have to measure that against culture and location so New York City, a 1% of the U.S. city is Muslim, it is 10% of New York City and 15% of New York City is Jewish. Culture matters on the other spectrum because we also have to be careful about stereotypes. 70% of all Arabs in the United States are Christian versus Muslim. Most Muslims in the United States are south Asian in extract. About 27% of our population are nones, none observant and that is highest in the northeast and northwest. We can’t forget our indigenous population, 1.7 million Native Americans from 567 tribes, most of those folks practice some combination of Christian faith traditions, as well as infused indigenous spiritualty and many practice no faith tradition or solely their indigenous traditions. Slide. This is adherence rates by major faith traditions, so when you think about how frequently congregations are in wore shim that in — worship that informs how we do outreach. If eight of 10 Buddhist attend worship a week, Buddhists worship differently and at different times and different reasons than weekly worshipers. Jehovah witnesses have 96% are in church twice a month or more and some denominations there are consequences for not participating in worship like losing your membership. Slide. 90% of Americans congregations are small about 75 participants, but most Americans worship in large houses of worship and those are about 10% of our congregations have 350 participants or more. The congregation in the United States is 75% of participants, that is not households. It could be 25 households. Slide. We have shifted dramatically in this country. We are a driving, commuting culture. We are no longer a culture where people work, live, and worship in the same town or neighborhood the way we traditionally understand how our communities are structured that, of course, is less true in rural areas, but certainly in municipality areas and densely populated communities near major roads tend to work, live, and worship in different communities. A community can can have a priority around a certain public health issue and they are only hearing about it where they work and not necessarily where they live or worship. Making sure we have circuits of outreach in greater communities is important to make sure people are getting properly educated and informed about threats, hazards, and building resilience or preparedness. Slide. This is a map of the United States showing the second largest religion by state. In the United States, Christianity is the predominants religion in every state, but these are the second, Judaism, Greek, Islam, Buddhism, Hindu that sort of brownish color that Arizona is. This trend is moving towards Islamist as the most rapidly growing religion in the United States. Again, in context just 1% of the population. Next slide and we will flip back and forth once or twice, looks at the county level. At the county level, we see an enormous amount of unreportable rates of adherence other than Christianty those would be the gray and yellow beige. We look at Arizona and Phoenix here is where the tipping point for Hinduism in the whole state so it is being influenced by one county. Moving forward. Next slide. This is a map of the United States, this is U.S. census data showing what percentage of the population speaks a language other than English at home. The reason I’m putting this up is because language is also an indicator of religious practice, so if the language in Texas is Spanish primarily, we know the Spanish population is significant numbers among pent coastal and Roman Catholic congregations in particular. If we’re looking for Spanish competency, looking for faith-based partners for outreach that can form a better, more effective outreach plan. It shows the new immigrant and refugee populations are, but also language practices changing and when my grandparents came to the United States, you didn’t speak your native language anymore. You only learned English. Today, it’s felt in more quarters it is important to maintain language competency. It is great for your education and career potential, so people do remain culturally intact, perhaps longer than they used to and older generations sometimes never gain the language competency in English that they might hope for and so how we do outreach is about how we understand what kind of demographic it means for us and how it informs the faith communities we want to engage with. Next slide. This is the most common country of origin of illegal immigrants, it does not suggest undocumented immigrants are all from Mexico because that is not true. It plays into understanding how language is working. If tag alog, the Philippine language in California might speak to why 40% or so of California is still speaking their indigenous language at home. Next slide. This is just a slide to show you kind of average in the United States. These statistics trend along the norms for the whole country. Nebraska is a little bit low on minority faith communities, numerical minority, 6% of our overall population is nonchristian, Nebraska is 4%. Slide. It’s critical that faith leaders, because they are turned to for leadership in times of crisis have a basic understanding of the disaster life cycle, so what roles can we play as faith leaders, faith community, ors in making sure we are working on mitigation or prevention, preparing our communities to respond to events, how that response goes and what roles we should have in that response and we understand the trajectory of recovery and it can sometimes be many, many years opposed to a few months and kind of losing steam. So it is worth talking about this because part of what congregations throughout the United States do routinely is focus on things that undermine resilience, hunger, poverty, literacy, social injustice, homelessness, aids ministry, youth ministries, these are populations that can be at risk, if they are better equipped, more literate, if they have secure housing, they are more likely to be resilient. Helping congregations understand what they do day in and day out is already building a more resilient community and country, but partnering with them can make it more effective, building their skills towards these goals and helping them understand it is not just literacy, but they are helping with the overall community resilience overall as a whole. Our sweet spot is comfort and hope through worship, through spiritual care, through mental health assessment and referral, through basic support of families, congregations are places that are frequently turned to for comfort to reconnecting with community to feeling supported, to feeling like they understand the crisis they have been through to be guided morally, spiritually, and practically, but when we’re effected by a crisis and you throw trauma into the mix, it is important that faith leaders lay and ordained build skills around mental health assessment and referral, psychological first aid, crisis chaplaincy, because they are unique taught skill sets and it does not make you a better caregiver in and of itself. These are unique skill sets, they need to be thought of as unique skill sets and we need to encourage people to do more training in these areas if they are in leadership or pastoral roles in congregations. Prayer and worshipselves events help re-establish connections to places of support, places where there are social capital so getting worship and prayer may not be something that government can fund in recovery, but people who are connected to worship and prayer life, community life tend to be more resilient, tend to recovery from adversity quicker. The primary role of leaders in disasters and preparedness is to help communities find meaning and purpose and learn these are important things for them to focus on. If congregations and their faith leaders never talk about the importance of disaster preparedness, go kits, an evacuation plan, preparedness for pandemic, safe practices around not spreading the flu at events, these are the kinds of things that not only jeopardize the health and wellness of congregations and their staff, they contribute to a lack of community wellness as well. Slide. Working with partners to offer community-based worshipselveses, healing events, Marking the anniversaries of crisis, school shootings, terrorist attacks, major apartment fires, all of these are a comfort role and they offer the example that government and the private sector, faith communities are working together to support those that are impacted. Justice and healing, having a voice in the community, making sure no community is left behind, but also emphasizing the fact that often it is our presence that brings meaning to people and comfort, a ministry of presence is often about being a good listener and not being a talker and a fixer. Making sure that folks understand caregiving is sometimes about presence and physically helping and not necessarily about what they have to say. Using connections with politicians and community leaders is important because it brings expertise to the community. It offers culture and religious guidance to improve the services that are being provided, particularly in high stress situations like mass illness or mass fatality incidents and promoting the curtailing of bias crimes or bias that crops up after disasters. Slide. So when you’re thinking outreach with faith community, think about their obligations are to ask them to do commodities distribution is not necessarily speaking to their skill set, seek houses of worship have a feeding hall and part of their understanding of their faith tradition is they have an obligation to feed the poor so they are a good partner for feeding ministry, not necessarily other things. Look at what will they have expertise at. If they are a shelter or a food bank, food kitchen build on those skills rather than ask them to shift mission. Understand what their faith traditions. , national VOAD organizations have an expertise in. For instance, Catholic charities U.S.A. has a significant amount of expertise in disaster case management so understanding that partnering with Catholic congregations can also help bring skill disaster case management to a community, the Islamic U.S.A. in rebuilding the Sue chief foundation in terms of volunteers, that understanding between local and national brings addition allayers of training, skill, and financial support and connects to local congregations. Who is making the ask matters, too. If a community has a strained relationship with law enforcement, maybe law enforcement is not the best outreach option and maybe public health might be. Enormous amount of complaints across the country from faith-based organizations who feel like government agencies and nonprofit partners do one off to engage in faith communities and don’t follow up on the relationships. It is often about spending down money to do a specific thing to take a box or grant or federal funding and trying to work with our funders, help our federal partner, local government, local philanthropy to understand one-offs is not helpful. Building and sustaining relationship is also our goal, congregations live in the relationshippal ministry footprint. They are not terribly invested in one-off or engagement events. Slide. Basic understanding of the national VOAD movement, which we talked about. It is a national movement based out of the metro D.C. area. There is a chapter in every state in the country and there’s well over 1,000 local COAD or VOAD’s in the United States. They are the ideal partner for congregations and local faith-based organizations to skill build, learn best practices and maintain relationship withs one another and their government partners and emergency management. Slide. Yeah, all these things you can read after the fact, but they bring enormous amount of competency to our response. Slide. They do have points of consensus and national standards. A lot of tool kits and resources can be shared with communities, I gave the example of the emotional and spiritual care, which is a turn of phrase, E. S. C. and how do you provide disaster care in a competent way, ideal resource is national VOAD light our way, it is a guide just republished. It is downloadable for free on the website. Understand emotional care is bidisciplinary approach with spiritual care, as a deeply religious country, most Americans have a spiritual grounding and mental health grounding to make sure they work in a complementeddary way together to heaven folks be resilient or be together from the experience of traumatic events. Slide. That is the end of my presentation. Happy to answer any questions. Again, all of the resources we talked about are free on the department of homeland securities FEMA website or N-DIN’s website, right on our home page there are link toes download all of the resources for free.

Haley McCalla: Thank you very much, Peter, for that wonderful presentation. We will transition to our Q&A session. Join than, can you read the first question?

Jonathan Lynch: This question comes in from honey. Are there validated indicators that measure the faith-based community engagement and its impact on community resilience at the time of emergencies or disasters?

Peter Gudaitis: I am not aware of any specific study long term that looks at the role that faith-based organizations play in resilience, but I am sure there are academic experts like Jamie from the humanitarian disaster institute that may have published on this will soil refer you to them.

Jonathan Lynch: The next question is from Steven. And this question says, I understand the role of national VOAD, but if I am a pastor of a local church that would like to become involved in local disaster response, what is the best pathway to do so? How would you recommend going about building faith/government partnerships?

Peter Gudaitis: I do think local health departments and emergency management agencies are the best point of contact for congregations at the community level, so having a relationship with typically at the county level, except for big cities, medical reserve core, citizen core council, local disaster chaplain teams, most Red Cross chapters in the United States have some sort of opportunity for clergy to serve as crisis or disaster chaplains, fire and police departments are often looking for police and fire chaplains, but general preparedness for congregations and bringing that training in would definitely, I think best through connecting through a county health department or energy management.

Jonathan Lynch: Is it at visible for a congregation to form some kind of disaster response council within their congregation?

Peter Gudaitis: Yeah, look, if we think about 90% of the congregations have less than 75 adherence, participants, we’re talking about small congregations. I would say appointing one or two people in a congregation to look at that congregation’s disaster plan, emergency communications plan, insurance policies, how the congregation might preserve vital information and statistics, all of those things are certainly something I would strongly encourage for every organization in the United States, not just congratulations, but certainly for congregations. I think for larger congregations that have hundreds of adherence, something like a committee maybe more effective, but I would want to emphasize looking at the entire life cycle, so not just preparedness, but how the congregation might respond, and looking at how potential partners exist outside of the congregation. You can’t do preparedness without best practices and strong curricula, which you will get from public health offices at the county or city level, emergency management partners and all of the things available through national tools and resources, as well, and all of the webinars offered for freebie the emergency management institute.

Jonathan Lynch: Next question is from honey again. What are the main challenges that congregations might face in disaster preparedness and response?

Peter Gudaitis: Just like the average household not being properly insured, not looking at where they are in relationship to the flood plane, not having good safety measures in place, make sure they are socially distancing if they are sick, wash their hands, everything we experience in school or the workplace, all things are important to general hygiene and public health safety. There are more intimacy in congregations of touching and sharing communal meals than any other place other than the home, I do think these practices are essential for people of faith, as well as where we work and live.

Jonathan Lynch: Scott Howard asks, in Arkansas, the natchable disaster preparedness committee has a presentation, but there is little interest. How do you motivate congregations when there is little interest?

Peter Gudaitis: You’re preaching to the choir. One of the most complicated questions for emergency management organizations in government and the VOAD sector is how to change our cultural understanding of the importance of preparedness. When we look at the seat belt safety campaigns and stop drop and roll and smoky the bear and the kind of prevention education that did take root in the country, we haven’t found the magic yet for disaster preparedness, unless you have lived through a disaster, it’s not something you can engage with easily. I will simply say that we should think of disasters in a very broad context to make it relevant in daily life and not focus on big things like 9/11, Katrina, Maria, and Harvey, because the big happens infrequently, but there are school shootings, public health outbreak, fires, and industrialal accidents in communities all of the time. We need to focus on the routine challenges that people face like house fires and house of worship fires, as well as the loss of leadership in congregations as a way of looking at how we do continuity operations planning or risk communication or emergency communication as something we need for day in and day out competency building at the congregation level and not just think of disaster preparedness to think as something unique for a unique point in time you think it will never come. It will come for everybody in every community, many times in their life, the question is are we thinking it that way or is it only a disaster when it is tens of thousands of people in many states.

Jonathan Lynch: Under what emergency circumstances do congregations tend to be more insular or more embracing towards outsiders? Are there studies that examined the effect of crisis on interfaith collaboration?

Peter Gudaitis: There actually are and many came out of Katrina they are sometimes looking at the unique populations like the African-American community and how it was affected and perceived racism following hurricane Katrina. We looked at the roles, the department of Homeland Security FEMA did a study, specifically on the role that faith communities played in the response to Katrina that is still relevant today there are many, many others. I think it is important for us to understand that faith-based organizations, congregations will typically will respond whether they are trained to or not or whether they are well networked or not. If we respond as faith-based organizations we do it well and competently and not just out of compassion andville to say to people, we did the best we can, but we did the best, but it is an understanding in partners with government working with us collaboratively is essential to making sure these things are done competently.

Jonathan Lynch: This question comes from Sara B. Where do the faith-bailed leaders get training in the spikeological/mental aspects of post disaster support to their congregations?

Peter Gudaitis: Many national VOAD faith-bailed organizations and secular offer free mental health first aid types of training. Red Cross chapters throughout the United States offer these trainings and health departments in the United States offer mental health first aid. I think it is often a matter of learning who is available locally, because I think it is probably being provided in different quarters, the question is, do we know who they are and do we trust those institutions and organizations that we would invite into our congregations to teach. For the most part, we’re teaching nonsect tearian skills, there is no such thing as Christian mental health first aid. It is just mental health first aid. It is for anybody and everybody whether they are Christian or no faith at all. We limit ourselves thinking we have to be trained by only somebody in our faith tradition because we do things uniquely. We don’t. All of these things are done on common national best practices. Our perspective may be formed by the individual best practices, but looking at organizations who are nationally accredited instead of someone who hung a shingle and said I’m good at this. Just because they are a family therapist, doesn’t mean they know anything about working with someone who has been a victim of trauma.

Jonathan Lynch: I would like to point out we held a webinar on this topic a couple years or so ago. If you went to the epic website, you should be able to find it there and we had two guest presenters and one was Kevin from the salvation army.

Peter Gudaitis: Kevin is a well known national expert.

Jonathan Lynch: We have a comment from Grace. Our county has a division that works with faith-based communities. We include the director of religious affairs in our outreach and we have an office of minority health. Would you recommend the health department P. I. O. create a distribution of housing of worship and reach out to them?

Peter Gudaitis: Yes, I think this is happening around the country in many different areas and the C.D.C. is doing it otherwise this would not be happening. Emphasizing that clergy is a communication network, full stop, but they are effective partners in education and advocacy, so they are the perfect P. I. O., public information officer disseminators of information and the more skilled and trained they are, the more effective they can be in educating congregations, in addition to just helping shirt communication.

Jonathan Lynch: Thank you. Now, we have a couple of questions that may be better for follow-up on epic. I’m going to follow up with a question from Anthony. Have you an interface with U. N. organizations. For example, my former organization unisteph where I was a specialist for 25 years is headquartered in New York City. If we could generalize that question, how does this apply to an international context?
Peter Gudaitis: I obviously think anybody, anywhere in the world is effected by local religious adherence, rates, practices, culture, laws and so all governments in this will country and around the world should look at ways to work in collaboration with faith leaders, asal way of building national resilience and sharing local best practices and expertise around humanitarian crisis. We are lucky, in many ways in the United States, that we aren’t mired in violent ethnic and religious conflict, which obviously is a more complicating factor to working in faith communities, but we also frequently have international visitors, I know here in our office throughout the year that can come and see what opportunities to work in other quarters of the world. Religion, unfortunately, is a causal factor of violence in many places in the world, but also should and must become a method of justice and peace and that justice and peace is just as important for resilience as all the other practical skills around disaster preparedness for me. I do think this is being done in Europe because I get phone calls from folks there. There is a massive national clergy collaboration effort in Australia across the whole country. I know some of this work is being done in other countries. It is being done to our north in Canada, where we get a lot of questions and collaboration from and again from the international aid organizations like church world service, Catholic world relief. I’m sure they have more knowledge about how to make more change in the area.

Jonathan Lynch: One last question before we close. Carlos asked, are there any financial incentives for religious organizations to engage in emergency preparedness?

Peter Gudaitis: I’m going to throw my government partners a little bit under the bus. The question is, whether or not local counties choose to use their money that way. So for instance, my organization here in New York, New York disaster interfaces, we get $75,000 a year in funding for our health department to help fund the faith sector community preparedness program to build resilience across the city and that is federal funding through the city that we are given and to other sectors as well. Suggest a local choice. I’m sure it depends on the local sectors and the choices they have if they believe it will make effective change. Local clergy, if they were well networked could advocate for why they should get that kind of funding and they have to prove that they are going to be an effective partner and they are going to be able to achieve measurable indicators that they are building resilience. If we want government money, we have to recognize there is accountability for how we use it and make sure it is effectively used.

Jonathan Lynch: Haley, that is all the questions we have time for.

Haley McCalla: Thank you very much everyone for your participation in the Q&A session. Thank you, Peter, for your wonderful presentation.

Peter Gudaitis: My pleasure. Thank you.

Haley McCalla: Today’s presentation has been recorded. You can earn continuing education units for your participation. Follow the instructions found on The access code is epic 0123 with all letters capitalized. If youville any additional questions, you may e-mail them to Thanks, everyone. Goodbye.

Peter Gudaitis: Goodbye.

Page last reviewed: February 25, 2019