National Faith Heads Create New Agenda on Poverty

WASHINGTON – National interfaith leaders are taking joint steps against the House approved budget cuts with a larger unifying mission to battle against poverty. More religious groups have entered the political sphere to speak up against cuts for the poor and to impose a proactive vision to overcome the rising poverty in America.

Some 45 national faith leaders convened for the one-day Faith Summit on Poverty hosted by Call to Renewal and Sojourners on Monday to create a new agenda on the prevalent issue of poverty. Representatives from World Vision, the Salvation Army, the Center for Public Justice, the Catholic Commission, the Evangelical Covenant Church and other faith groups addressed ways to move forward after the Katrina awakening and campaigned for progress in a racially divided and poverty-stricken nation.

Currently, participants are drafting a Covenant for a New America to advocate improved conditions for the poor and rally greater action as a faith community. The covenant is slated for release in January 2006.

Tom Allio, Senior Director of the Cleveland Diocesan Social Action office, spoke on behalf of the Catholic Commission saying that they will "redouble" their efforts with phone calls, letters, and visits to battle for the hundreds of thousands of America's poor.

A political consciousness of the impact that such poverty decisions bring on the nation is beginning to unfold, as Mary Nelson of Bethel New Life noted.

The House narrowly approved $50 billion in budget cuts last week, slicing into Medicaid, student loans, food stamps and other benefit programs.

Religious communities have increasingly taken social justice issues to Congress and the United Nations either as a small group-affiliated effort or a large bipartisan interfaith collaboration.

As Jim Wallis, convener of Sojourners and Call to Renewal, stressed, the faith community is driven to get "very involved" with "bold, dramatic action on behalf of the poor."