Dialogue and Community-building

In the wake of Katrina the church is
presented with an opportunity to participate in a dialogue to create more
inclusive community.

The re-building of communities along the Gulf Coast presents the church and government, among many other groups, with an opportunity to consider more than physical re-building.

As important as this is, the quality of community life is even more important, but consideration of this important ingredient will happen only if communities engage in the broad conversation necessary to consider the concerns of all the people in the community . This will be the great challenge and already we’re seeing how difficult it is.

Local businesses in New Orleans are claiming that outside contractors unfamiliar with the local community are getting non-competitive contracts. I’ve spoken with clergy in the affected areas and they raise the concern that re-building should include the poor and those who were abandoned in the evacuation of New Orleans. What they talk about is a process that allows for all the voices in a community to be heard as re-building begins. If this happens, and if these voices are heard, it will offer hope for creating accessible, participatory communities.

If not, that hope will be dashed and this will only compound the tragedy. In interviews, mostly on NPR, it’s been interesting to hear the views of New Orleans residents from the city’s urban core. Creative professionals, such as musicians, tell of New Orleans as a multi-cultural city.

The displaced musicians I’ve heard in many interviews, mourn their loss of this eclectic cultural exchange. Katrina, tragic as it is, provides an opportunity to build an even more inclusive and vibrant community by design, if the politicians, city planners and others concerned with the quality of life in the city get together and listen to all the people.

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