- The Washington Times - Friday, October 23, 2009

Diverse faiths on common ground

Fighting Poverty With Faith, a coalition of dozens of faith leaders and organizations, wrapped up a week of events in Washington, where the group pushed an anti-poverty and green-jobs agenda. Citing national unemployment (9.8 percent) and poverty (39.8 million) statistics, the group held workshops and urged federal officials to create new, sustainable and green jobs for the nation’s poor.

One means to that end is the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, leaders of the group said.

The Rev. Larry Snyder, president and chief executive officer of Catholic Charities, said now is the time to practice loving thy neighbor and put reducing poverty on the national agenda.

“Families are hurting. Children are hurting. Senior citizens and those who worked hard all of their lives are hurting,” he said. “If we ever hope to seriously reduce poverty in America, we must work harder to reduce the social and economic risks that result in people falling into poverty - particularly now as we have the opportunity to rebuild our nation’s economy.”

Others members of the coalition include American Baptist Churches USA, Bread for the World, the Episcopal Church, Hindu American Seva Charities, Islamic Relief, Islamic Society of North America, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, National Council of Churches USA, Progressive National Baptist Church, and Sojourners.

They held roundtable discussions, job training seminars and home retrofitting fairs. They want federal, state and local government officials to:

• Target funds toward projects that help low-income families develop the necessary skills to compete in a new economy.

• Ensure green industries create “good jobs” with decent benefits, family-supporting wages and safe working conditions.

• Promote projects that improve the quality of life for low-income families by lowering energy costs and enhancing public health through safer housing.

• Create pipelines that enable low-income people to access jobs in green, traditional and other newly emerging industries.

• Ensure equity and transparency in the distribution of funding associated with the creation of new work force development, including green jobs.

“It is tragic that in today’s era, despite being the richest country in the world, there are still those who are unable to make ends meet,” said Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. “There is no doubt that the United States is making strides to transform our nation into a more clean-energy economy. No matter if one is a Jew, Christian, Muslim, Hindu or of any other faith, all of our religious traditions have a strong ethical mandate of helping the most vulnerable among us. This central tenet of our faiths is why we are speaking as one voice to encourage our nation’s leaders to make poverty reduction a central component of any initiatives ushering in this new economy.”

These are the same religious and human rights leaders who made a similar faith-based appeal last week to President Obama during his visit to the hurricane-struck Gulf Coast.

Housing, jobs, mental health care and living wages were cited in a detailed letter addressed to Mr. Obama. The also urged the president and Congress to support the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act.

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