What Does it Mean to Have Faith in Justice?

Written by: Ben Barge

Date: April 19, 2016

I come from a pretty religious family. My dad, my aunt, my uncle and two cousins all followed a call into the clergy. I held the huppah at my sister’s interfaith wedding, and can still remember the shouts of “Mazel Tov!” right as the gospel choir burst into song.

As it was for me growing up, and as it is for many people of faith today, spring is a busy time of year. Easter and Holi just passed us by, and Passover and Lailat al Miraj are just a few days away. It’s a time when many religions celebrate spiritual rebirths and new beginnings.

Yet reading the news lately, I’d forgive you for wondering where the rejuvenation and spiritual nirvana is hiding. Anti-Muslim sentiment is growing across the country. Two hundred religious freedom bills targeting the rights of LGBTQ individuals have been introduced nationwide, and two of those bills have been put into law in North Carolina and Mississippi. Among the religious and secular alike, some might be wondering: Where is the good news? And what role does faith have to play in it?

These are important questions. To help, here are a few lesser-known stories for your consideration the next time you break bread:

  • In Flint, congregations and community groups like Michigan Faith in Action (MFA) organized a trip to Washington, D.C., for residents to testify in front of Congress about the lead contamination crisis and helped ensure the elderly and undocumented immigrants get access to clean bottled water.
  • On Twitter, dozens of Jewish organizations across the country are mounting an #ActonPassover campaign to encourage critical conversations on the timeless intersections between Judaism and the social and policy issues holding back justice today.
  • In New York, Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM) is coordinating advocacy efforts to protest the inhumane treatment and mass deportation of over 70 predominantly Muslim and Sikh migrants to the U.S. seeking asylum from political violence.

In each of these stories, communities are organizing to create a better future for themselves and for their neighbors who lack political voice. And for each, faith has offered cultural identity, common ground and strength to resist oppressive circumstances, as it has for countless before them.

That’s why I’m excited for the webinar we’re hosting tomorrow, Faithful Movements: The Role of Faith in Social Justice. Each of our featured guests is doing important work with faith-identified communities across the country.

First there’s Lauren Spokane, development director for the PICO National Network, a network of over 1000 member institutions and affiliates in 17 states – including MFA in Flint. Abby Levine will also speak in her capacity as executive director of Jewish Social Justice Roundtable – the architect of the #ActonPassover campaign. And Shireen Zaman will join us in her role as program director at the Proteus Fund’s Security & Rights Collaborative, which funds a diverse field of Muslim, Arab and South Asian advocacy groups across the country – like DRUM in New York.

Our own Jeanné Isler, who spent years as a faith-based community organizer and led other interfaith work, will moderate the discussion. A Roman Catholic all her life, she’s also active on the Parish Pastoral Council at St. Augustine Catholic parish here in D.C.

So whether you’re a person of one faith, many faiths, no faith or somewhere in between, join us! For change to happen, it takes faith that a different future is possible and that we can overcome the obstacles to get there, together. RSVP here.

Ben Barge is a field associate at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP). Follow @NCRP on Twitter.