February 20, 2018
On Feb. 1, the Humanitarian Disaster Institute (HDI) at Wheaton College presented the Disaster Justice Forum: Pursuing Justice in the Wake of Disasters. Wheaton College students and alumni, church groups, faculty and other community members gathered in Meyer Science Center to learn more about disaster ministry, justice and Wheaton's new M.A. degree in Humanitarian and Disaster Leadership.
Jamie Aten, Founder and Executive Director of HDI, opened the forum by describing justice in the context of disaster. He highlighted that injustices—such as human trafficking—spike during times of disaster, as the vulnerable become even more vulnerable.
Disasters, which affect eight percent of the U.S. population directly, may reveal injustices in a community, said Aten, but the church can be an essential tool for bringing about God’s grace, justice, and mercy during these times.
HDI Managing Director Jenny Hwang discussed poverty and disasters. Citing death toll data from earthquakes across the globe, Hwang explained that “the geography of inequality expresses itself in all scales—between regions, between countries and between cities.”
HDI Senior Fellow Kent Annan followed, reflecting on his experience living and working with refugees. He recounted how his experiences abroad transformed refugees into friends.
“It’s a terrible responsibility in one way to see so many people in disaster,” said Annan. “But in another way, what a beautiful opportunity to get to respond by doing justice and by loving kindness and walking humbly with God to serve our neighbors.”
Ed Stetzer, the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism, Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center, and HDI Senior Fellow, also made a guest appearance to outline the biblical, historical and missional reasons the church should actively engage in disaster ministry.
The forum concluded with a Q&A session facilitated by HDI Communications Specialist Laura Leonard. During the Q&A, Aten highlighted practical ways that anyone can help during times of disaster.
“When disaster strikes, sometimes we think we know the best way to help, but instead we should look to the local communities and use their knowledge and their needs to find out how to best help those affected by disaster.”
From June 21 to 23, the Humanitarian Disaster Institute will host their fifth annual Disaster Ministry Conference to equip churches and lay leaders to serve amidst disaster. For more information and to register, visit wheaton.edu/hdi.