Today’s Editorial August 01: Churches as shelters

For many of us churches provided a place of solace and security following Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.

Some churches, such as First Baptist, even opened their doors and gave comfort during the storm, acting as shelters.

Under a little publicised agreement, Government is willing to reach out to churches that want to build or renovate their facilities to withstand strong hurricane winds.

To receive financial support form Government churches would have to agree open their doors to anyone seeking shelter during or after a storm.

Not a bad deal.

We’re already smack dab in the middle of hurricane season and our stock of hurricane shelter space is sparse.

Grand Cayman’s hurricane shelters can accommodate only about 4,000 people. There are more than 52,000 people living here.

Another 4,000-4,500 could be airlifted off the island in the event of a major hurricane. That leaves about 43,500 left to find some sort of shelter.

Cash-strapped churches already have to find unique ways to raise money for building fund projects.

An infusion from Government under the shelter-use agreement would take the burden off Government to come up with more shelter space and church members, volunteers and staff could act as wardens, easing Government’s need to recruit additional shelter overseers.

Too, some of the bad behaviours witnessed at shelters following storms may be stemmed because those seeking refuge from the storm would be in a place of religion, which on its own demands respect.

Those churches will have to adopt rules and regulations, like those Government requires of its shelters.

But churches as shelters may have some leeway when it comes to rules and regulations. It could be that some might even allow pets; something that is badly needed in the Cayman Islands.

Some may argue that there should be a separation of church and state and that churches shouldn’t be offered or take Government money.

In this instance, we disagree.

The church has played a major part in the formation of the Cayman Islands and there has been a long history of church and community partnership.

We would hope that churches that are capable of withstanding a major hurricane would open their doors to those seeking shelter, whether they’ve accepted Government money or not.

What better place to feel safe?

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