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Hope & equality underscored by Bush at Katrina prayer service

WASHINGTON (BP)–Hurricane Katrina’s devastation was beyond the control of human beings, but Americans have the opportunity to build hope and equality in its aftermath, President Bush said at a prayer service Sept. 16.

Speaking at the National Cathedral in Washington, the president said the “restoration of broken communities and disrupted lives now rests in our hands. And we accept this responsibility not as a burden or a chore, but as an opportunity to serve our fellow Americans, as they would do for us.”

The president delivered his five-minute speech on a day he had proclaimed as a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for the Victims of Hurricane Katrina. Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch, pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., was among those attending the service at the National Cathedral.

The work ahead, Bush said, gives Americans an opening to correct a problem that existed long before Katrina hit New Orleans and other Gulf Coast communities Aug. 29. The poverty of some people had its “roots in generations of segregation and discrimination,” he said.

“As we clear away the debris of a hurricane, let us also clear away the legacy of inequality,” the president said. “Let us deliver new hope to communities that were suffering before the storm. And one day, Americans will look back at the response to Hurricane Katrina and say that our country grew not only in prosperity, but in character and justice.”

While people seek to understand the hurricane’s destruction and suffering, they are reminded “God’s purposes are sometimes impossible to know here on earth,” Bush said. “Yet even as we’re humbled by forces we cannot explain, we take comfort in the knowledge that no one is ever stranded beyond God’s care. The Creator of wind and water is also the source of even a great power — a love that can redeem the worst tragedy, a love that is stronger than death.”

Americans are thankful for those who acted courageously to save victims and for those who have given food, water and shelter to the needy, the president said.

“[W]e pledge ourselves to the demanding work of revival, and renew the faith and hope that will carry that work to completion,” Bush said.

During the service, popular pastor and author T.D. Jakes used the parable of the Good Samaritan to call for humility, action and unity in response to the hurricane.

“It is not so important what we say,” said Jakes, pastor of The Potter’s House, a mega-church in Dallas, Texas. “It is important what we do.”

“While we are building cities and building bridges, let’s build unity,” Jakes said. “We cannot multiply by dividing. We cannot add by subtracting. But if we would dare to build a bridge, I refuse to believe in light of all of the talent, intellectual properties, resources, influential people in this country that we couldn’t make a real difference if we would just try.”

The interfaith service included prayers or scripture reading from clergy representing a variety of religious groups, including evangelical, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim. Evangelist Luis Palau was among those who prayed.

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