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CURRENT ISSUE:  September 22, 2008
VOL. 46, NO. 16   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Cathedral celebrations begin
Aid agencies seek donations for victims
Religious leaders say poverty
must be a campaign issue

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The needs of poor and marginalized people deserve the same attention from government officials as the current needs of Wall Street’s failing financial firms, said a group of religious leaders.

Praying outside the U.S. Capitol Sept. 16, Catholic, Protestant, Islamic and Jewish leaders invoked the words of the prophet Micah in calling upon candidates for public office in the Nov. 4 election to join with Americans of faith to work for justice for the poor.

“We religious people need to be as strong as we can be here in America,” said Rabbi Steve Gutow, executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, at the start of an hour long program. “We need to build an army of faithful who wish to take our view of God’s message into the vineyards of public life and to the public square.”

Rabbi Gutow, who coordinated the service that closed the “Fighting Poverty With Faith: A Week of Action” effort with Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, said that the growing poverty in America threatens to undermine the spirit of justice promised by God.

“We pledge that this is just the beginning,” he said. “We will do all we can to hold America’s political leaders accountable to uphold their own values and their own commitments.”

“The real impact on poverty will be made through local people coming together in an interfaith way to really raise the issue of people living in poverty,” Father Synder said.

During the service speakers discussed how poverty has grown in recent years, but said little attention has been given to the needs of the 38 million Americans living in poverty.

The Rev. James McDonald, vice president for policy and programs at Bread for the World, an international Christian citizens’ movement that fights hunger, contrasted the lack of response to the poor with the quick action by the federal government to bail out failing financial firms as the mortgage crisis envelops the national economy.

Also joining the Capitol Hill event were Social Service Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, the Catholic social justice lobby; Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland; Ahmad El Bendary, president of Islamic Relief; and Bishop James F. Mauney of the Virginia Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

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