Over 1,000 Christian Leaders Meet for U.S. Policy Forum

More than 1,000 Christian leaders are expected to gather beginning Friday for the 2008 Ecumenical Advocacy Days Conference to discuss and advocate for a wide range of U.S. policy issues outside of Washington, D.C.

The sixth annual conference, Mar. 7-10, brings together leaders from the ecumenical Christian community to learn, discuss and then mobilize the Christian voice to be a witness for justice and peace in regards to U.S. domestic and international policies. Attendees will hail from around the world including from Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Participants will explore new ideas on how U.S. policies can be transformed to embrace more just, peaceful and effective actions at home and abroad to improve security for the United States, its neighbors and around the world.

"As people of faith and hope, we believe our nation is entering – and must enter – an era of renewal and re-creation," says a statement on the Ecumenical Advocacy Days Web site.

"It is time to move beyond the misdirected strategies of the past few years and envision a new pathway to true human security – one which seeks not only the absence of tension, but the presence of justice."

This year's moral statement is "Claiming a Vision of True Security," with the main Scripture reference taken from Psalms 20:7: "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God."

Organizers explain that Psalms 20:7, in today's language, could read as: Some trust in violence and take pride in technologies of war, and some in military power, but our trust is in the unfailing love and faithfulness of our saving God.

"As people of faith and conscience, we envision a world where security is not measured by military power, closed borders or corporate profits, but by the capacity to achieve the common global good and share the resources which sustain communities," event organizers wrote on its Web site.

"In such a world all children are treasured as sacred gifts and our elderly are regarded for their experience and wisdom," they continued. "Each woman, man and child is safe from violence and has the resources for a life of dignity and sufficiency. Such a world looks to secure a safe and productive future for generations yet to come."

Conference plenary speakers include the Rev. Dr. Mark Lomax of the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Ga.; Dr. Lisa Schirch, professor of peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University; and Archbishop Vicken Aykazian of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern).

The conference will hold a Town Hall forum Sunday evening and presidential candidates have been invited to participate in discussions on economic security, health care, the global impact of climate change and U.S. military presence abroad.

On Monday, the gathering will cap off with a visit to Capitol Hill where participants will lobby their congressional representatives on the new visions for national and global security as decided by the conference.

"Accordingly, in a truly secure world, the earth and all its people will receive the respect they are due as God's creation and bearers of the divine image," organizers envisioned.

Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice began in 2003 with some 400 religious advocates, and grew to more than 1,000 leaders in 2007.