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PJALS and faith leaders collaborate to end poverty

The Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane (PJALS) held the first local mass meeting for Spokane Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival on April 28 at Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ to launch local action that will continue the original Poor People’s Campaign begun 50 years ago by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“This is a movement to shock life back into the moral heart of our country,” said Liz Moore, director of PJALS.

• Fitz Fitzpatrick, a Spokane poet, is gathering choirs and singers so they can learn and sing songs people around the nation are learning.

• “The spiritual core is supported by the Faith Leaders and Leaders of Conscience,” said the Rev. Gen Heywood, who coordinates people from diverse faiths and no faiths to build resources for keeping centered in difficult times.

• The Rev. Susie Weller, a certified life and spiritual coach with a master’s in pastoral ministry working with the Unity Spiritual Center of North Idaho, has assembled a daily study guide for faith communities based on weekly themes. For Week 1, May 13 to 19, the focus is “From Poverty to Enough Resources for Everyone.”  Each day has a theme, reading and questions for reflection and discussion based on “The Souls of Poor Folks” audit 50 years after the Poor People’s Campaign.

• Devon Wilson, chair of the NAACP Spokane Criminal Justice Committee, member of the Center for Justice Board and project manager of Better Health Together in Spokane, brings expertise in grassroots organizing and understanding systemic racism.

PJALS members started Eastern Washington efforts when they voted to make the Poor People’s Campaign a priority.

Liz is one of three chairs of the State Coordinating Committee.

The mass meeting in April introduced the campaign’s 40 days of action, including people sharing personal stories of the impact of systemic poverty, racism, the war economy, ecological devastation, human rights abuse and the need for a new sense of morality.

The campaign challenges people to see poverty as a structural, not personal problem; a result of the concentration of wealth; women and children as the poorest; being poor is not a crime; ways to eliminate poverty, and to the need to reprioritize the national budget.

One resource, “The Souls of Poor Folks” is the Institute for Policy Studies’ audit of poverty 50 years after the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign.  It is available at ips-dc.org/souls-of-poor-folks.

“Facts, figures and faces” in the report counter myths about poverty, including that it’s the fault of the poor and that there is not enough for everyone to survive.

“Souls of Poor Folks” makes it clear that the richest nation in the world has enough resources to protect the environment and ensure dignified lives for all people.

It calls for “shifting the narrative about morality from a narrow focus on only school prayer, abortion and gun rights to a focus “on how our society treats the poor, those on the margins, the least of these, LGBTQ folks, workers, immigrants, the disabled and the sick. It calls for equal representation and for peace, love and harmony among nations.

A summary of the audit follows:

• It bases moral analysis on religious and constitutional values that demand justice for all, because every major religion challenges oppression and injustice.

• It says the “only remedy for our moral crisis is a transformed national heart” based on compassion and the common good.

• It addresses racism in voter suppression, policing practices, housing segregation, mass incarceration and immigration policies.

• It attributes poverty to the low-wage economy, gains going to few, 43.5 percent of the population being low-income, scaling back anti-poverty programs, and the rising costs of housing, higher education and health care.

• It reviews the toll of the perpetual, profit-driven war economy on civilians, troops deployed in 149 nations, and the moral costs.

• It says ecological devastation multiplies injustices and contributes to 9 million premature deaths from volatile weather, unsafe water, air and water pollution, oil pipeline and transport spills, and superfund sites.

The report asserts that transformative action on these issues is as urgent today as it was in 1968.

For six weeks, the Poor People’s Campaign will focus on problems and create leadership in U.S. communities.

The weekly themes are: From racism to equality and respect for week two; from militarism to a peace-based economy for week three; from ecological devastation to earth stewardship for week four; from isolation to solidarity in human rights for week five, and from a narrow morality to a broad “moral fusion” for week six.

From May 13 to June 23, 2018, the campaign will enter into a season of moral resistance, coordinated across at least 25 states and Washington, D.C.  More than 100 national religious, labor, civil rights and nonprofit organizations support the campaign.

A season of 40 days has a history in many spiritual traditions as a timeline for creating a favorable environment for transformation.

On “Moral Mondays,” people will gather at 30 state capitols for non-violent actions, demanding that leaders address the injustices and begin a moral revival. The demands are published at www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/index.php/demands/

PJALS is organizing delegations to go to Moral Mondays actions in Olympia, and send-offs.

“We hope to create power the powerbrokers don’t expect so they change how they operate,” Liz said.

The Faith Leaders and Leaders of Conscience resources include videos sharing people’s stories.

“This is only the beginning. The demands will take years to fulfill,” said Gen Heywood, pastor of the Veradale United Church of Christ.

“As Faith Leaders and Leaders of Conscience, we seek to build relationships that will heal divisions and move us toward the beloved community envisioned by Martin Luther King Jr.”

PJALS is holding Nonviolent Moral Fusion Direct Action Training from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturdays, May 5 and 19.  Liz said that is in the spirit and tradition of ordinary people of conscience engaging in nonviolent direct action to expose and engage in moral witness against injustice.

For information from PJALS, call 838-7870 or visit pjals.org

For information on the FLLC, call 408-593-9556 or genheywood@att.net.  Information is also at pjals.org/ppc or facebook.com/SpokanePPC/.





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