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 Interfaith leaders call on candidates
to make major statements on poverty

New York, August 4, 2008 - High ranking Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Protestant leaders have called on the presidential candidates of both major parties to use their primetime slots at the nominating conventions to offer plans for combating poverty.

"As people of faith, we believe that it is immoral to ignore our nation's most vulnerable populations," the leaders said in letters to Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona and Democratic Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.

"As Americans," the leaders wrote, "we believe enduring poverty undermines our country's economic strength and prosperity. Everyday, faith organizations serve individuals in need within our communities. But our efforts to sustain our brothers and sisters living in poverty must be complemented with a serious plan from our political leaders to reduce the number of needy."

The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, is among the signers of the letter. The NCC has called poverty a "scourge" that "enslaves and breaks the spirits of tens of millions of Americans." The council's long-standing policy is to "look toward a measurable reduction of poverty in America and a greater potential for all persons to live the lives for which they were created."

Other signers of the letter are Rabbi Steve Gutow, executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president for government affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals; Rabbi David Saperstein, director and counsel of the Religion Action Center for Reform Judaism; Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World; Rev. Jim Wallis, head of Sojourners; Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA; Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, secretary general of the Islamic Society of America; and Dr. Eboo Patel, executive director of Interfaith Youth Core.

"By making a commitment to help 'the least of us,'" the leaders told the candidates, "you can help create an economy that enables all Americans to move forward together. Giving a primetime speech at the 2008 national convention is an important first step. We look forward to working with you to make sure our nation’s most fundamental values – a commitment to shared prosperity and opportunity for all – are given the attention they so desperately need and deserve."

The full text of the letter follows:

As communities of faith, we are grounded in a shared tradition of justice and compassion. We are called upon to hold ourselves and our communities accountable to the moral standard of our faith tradition. We speak together now to express concern about the plague of persistent poverty in America. 

As we look across our country today, we see a nation in which millions of people lack the basic necessities of life.  During these tough economic times too many Americans are only one job loss, health crisis, or foreclosure away from poverty. More than 37 million Americans, including nearly 13 million children, live in poverty today. Our common faith teachings present a vision of shared responsibility that commands that we leave the corners of our field for the poor and the stranger, and mandates, “There Shall Be No Needy Among You” (Deuteronomy 15:4).  

We are therefore asking each of our national political parties to present a primetime speech at its 2008 convention that is solely dedicated to proposing a comprehensive plan to address poverty and opportunity in America over the next decade.  We believe that all political parties have an important contribution to make on this issue. Your party’s willingness to present your vision on this topic in a primetime address will send a clear message about your priorities to tens of millions of concerned citizens.  

As people of faith, we believe that it is immoral to ignore our nation’s most vulnerable populations. As Americans, we believe enduring poverty undermines our country’s economic strength and prosperity. Everyday, faith organizations serve individuals in need within our communities.  But our efforts to sustain our brothers and sisters living in poverty must be complemented with a serious plan from our political leaders to reduce the number of needy.  

We will mark the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2008, a date that falls between the Democratic and Republican national conventions. The tragedy in the Gulf Coast temporarily unmasked the depths of poverty that are too common in our country. In the weeks leading up to the election, the interfaith community will be mobilizing our networks and starting a national conversation in churches, synagogues, and mosques--in the shelters and soup kitchens of our faith based service providers, and among people of faith across our great nation. We will be drawing from our shared scriptures and commitment to our fellow beings, working to build the political and public will to combat poverty in the United States. We hope you will do the same from the podium at your party’s convention this summer. 

By making a commitment to help “the least of us,” you can help create an economy that enables all Americans to move forward together. Giving a primetime speech at the 2008 national convention is an important first step. We look forward to working with you to make sure our nation’s most fundamental values – a commitment to shared prosperity and opportunity for all – are given the attention they so desperately need and deserve. 

Respectfully,                                               

Rabbi Steve Gutow                                                      Father Larry Snyder
Executive Director                                                        President
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs                            Catholic Charities USA
 

Rev. Richard Cizik                                                        Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed
Vice President for Government Affairs                          Secretary General
National Association of Evangelicals                              Islamic Society of North America                                   

Rabbi David Saperstein                                                Dr. Rev. Michael Kinnamon
Director and Counsel                                                    General Secretary
Religious
Action Center for Reform Judaism                  National Council of Churches                                    

Rev. David Beckmann                                                  Dr. Eboo Patel President                                                                      Executive Director
Bread for the World                                                     Interfaith Youth Core 

Rev. Jim Wallis
Chief Executive Officer
Sojourners

 

 


NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228, NCCnews@ncccusa.org


 

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