Internet plays key role

BY PJ HELLER | SANTA BARBARA, CA | September 12, 2001

Major faith-based organizations quickly began using the Internet Tuesday to spread the word about response efforts to the assaults on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

The effort showed the power of the Internet to spread information in seconds to a worldwide audience.

Many of the sites urged people to pray, to donate blood to the American Red Cross and to make financial contributions to help in the planned response efforts. Messages of condolences and sympathy were also common.

The sites also issued statements condemning the violence and posted letters and notes about the status of workers in the affected areas. Some posted sermons and talks given at vigils throughout the day.

"I am appalled by the tragic events of this day," said the Rev. William G. Sinkford, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association a few hours after two commercial jetliners slammed into the World Trade Center and another plane struck the Pentagon.

"We hold in our hearts the people injured and killed," Sinkford said. "I urge us to come together as a religious community and to avoid panic. My prayers are with the victims, their families, and our entire country."

The Church World Service (CWS) Emergency Response Executive Committee was meeting in Santa Fe, N.M., at the time of the attack. It moved into an immediate emergency session to plan a response to the tragedy and faith-based groups posted those plans on their web sites.

"We beseech members of our communions to join us in prayer and to stand ready to offer the resources for our common response as the needs become apparent during coming days and weeks," CWS said.

The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) announced it was preparing a response to help the survivors of the tragedy and their families.

"Initially, CRWRC expects to provide emotional and spiritual support to survivors of the attacks and to the families of victims," it reported on its web site. "Teams of trained chaplains and counselors are being alerted and will be mobilized."

Southern Baptists announced their mobilization plans on the web, saying that disaster relief units were ready to respond.

"Already, disaster relief feeding units from four Baptist state conventions have been placed on stand-by and are ready to move toward New York City," reported Bob Reccord, president of the North American Mission Board, which coordinates multi-state disaster response for Southern Baptists.

"We're also preparing

to coordinate response by SBC chaplains who can minister so

effectively to those impacted by these tragedies as we saw following the Oklahoma City bombing."

The Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Ky., posted the text of a morning prayer service on the main Presbyterian Church USA web site. An online interactive ecumenical prayer service using chat technology was held Tuesday night.

Disaster News Network mobilized its staff from around the country, using Internet telephony much of the day to reach many East Coast officials. The online news service had produced and posted more stories to its Web site Tuesday than in any single day of its three-year history.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance announced on the web that it had established an account for trauma work and pastoral care.

"In this crisis, funds will be needed to help facilitate the mobilization of pastoral care teams," it said.

The Mennonite Central Committee issued a statement "condemning the horrific violence, requesting prayer and urging leaders to respond with restraint and wisdom."

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