The Common Good

The G8 and poverty: 'Beyond empty symbolism'

Sojomail - July 6, 2005

Quote of the Week » Bork's bet on Bush bench
Action Alert » Adam Taylor: The G8 and poverty: 'Beyond empty symbolism'
Sojourners in the News » U.S.-U.K. church leaders meet in London
Building a Movement » Speak out this weekend to end genocide in Darfur
Eco News » Caring for creation with hearts and heads
Global Vision » Crunch time for CAFTA
Faith and Politics » One Catholic voice on death penalty takes on another
Boomerang » Readers write
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"Already, people have been pushing various candidates, but I don't think that's going to have much effect on Bush.... I think he already knows what he wants to do."

- Robert H. Bork, Supreme Court nominee rejected in 1987, on the likelihood that President Bush will nominate U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.


The G8 and poverty: 'Beyond empty symbolism'
by Adam Taylor

The people of Edinburgh, Scotland, have just witnessed the largest peaceful public mobilization in the history of the G8 and of Scottish history. Over 250,000 people from the across the U.K. and around the world marched together, united in their call for G8 leaders to provide bold leadership in order to make poverty history. But in the midst of this historic moment, the leaders of the G8 are wavering on the details of a widely embraced debt, aid, and trade justice agenda. The devil will lie in the details: in the process of all these negotiations, the real commitments that the world needs from the G8 leaders are being whittled down. We must use our voice to ensure that the outcome of this year's summit provides real justice and empowerment for the world's most impoverished people.

Prior to leaving for a U.S./U.K. London Religious Forum on global poverty, 13 Protestant, evangelical and Catholic religious leaders from the U.S. called on President Bush to support a breakthrough at the G8 Summit. We asked him to increase effective anti-poverty foreign assistance funding in the 2006 budget by at least $2 billion. In a recent speech, President Bush further committed to addressing malaria and the need for girls' education and women's empowerment in Africa over the next five years. While we applaud these efforts, the reality of U.S. funding commitment falls far short of the desperate and urgent need. In his speech, the president pledged a mere one percent of the $2 billion increase needed in this year's budget.

In the midst of all of the media attention surrounding Live 8 concerts and the G8 Summit, we must raise a prophetic voice to say that the "details" being decided at Gleneagles mean life and death to our sisters and brothers around the world. We agree with our president that our nation must "get beyond empty symbolism and discredited policies, and match our good intentions with good results." We encourage him to hold his own administration's funding commitments to that standard.

Adam Taylor is director of campaigns and organizing at Sojourners.

Raise your voice for Africa!

Call the White House Comment Line at (202) 456-1111 and urge the administration to commit at least an additional $2 billion to Africa in effective anti-poverty foreign assistance funding in the 2006 budget, and to call for 100% debt cancellation for impoverished countries. In the midst of this historic moment, the leaders of the G8 are wavering on the details of a widely embraced debt, aid, and trade justice agenda. Join us by calling on the president to speak and act boldly for those who cannot speak for themselves, and to defend the rights of the poor and needy. (You must call between the hours of 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. EDT.) We also urge our international readers to call or write to your leaders, asking them to support effective measures to fight poverty.


U.S.-U.K. church leaders meet in London

The Church Leaders' London Forum had an important meeting with British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown and a discussion with British church leaders hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. The more than 40 forum participants, including a delegation of religious leaders from the U.S. organized by Sojourners, agreed on a powerful statement focused on the increasing engagement of the church around the scandal of global poverty. The statement calls on G8 leaders to "provide courageous and costly political leadership by providing the resources and making the structural changes necessary to eradicate poverty."

+ Read the London Forum Church Leaders' Statement on the G8

Be courageous, church leaders tell G8 politicians
+ The Church Times

Church leaders call for action on poverty
+ Anglican Communion News Service

Ecumenical forum: Poverty is the 'new slavery' and 'silent tsunami'
+ The Christian Post

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Speak out this weekend to end genocide in Darfur

Communities of faith around the country are gathering this weekend and the following weekend to pray, bear public witness, and take action to end the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. This weekend in Washington, DC, Rev. Jim Wallis and many faith leaders will call on the Bush Administration to use its influence to put meaning to the words "never again." Across the country, faith leaders in over 40 cities and towns will also be calling for an end to the genocide. Join us!

+ Click here to find and attend a Darfur event near you

+ Click here to organize a vigil or list what your faith community is doing for Darfur


Can one person make a difference in the fight against hunger?


Especially when working together with other Christians.
Bread for the World helps make that happen.

Find out how.


The Road to Detroit: Caring for creation with hearts and heads
by May Boeve and Jamie Henn

The whole thing began over a midnight snack of nachos at the small, dimly lit student café at Middlebury College in Vermont. After four months of sleepless nights and last-minute conference calls, a dedicated group of students from around the country has partnered with the youth coalition Energy Action to pull together what is perhaps the most unique, exciting youth campaign of the summer: the Road to Detroit.

On the surface, Road to Detroit (RTD) may look like your average college road trip: a painted school bus, good friends, bad food, and an ambitious schedule of over 13,000 miles. A closer look, however, reveals that this is no ordinary undertaking.

From the start, Road to Detroit has been dedicated to a not-so-typical environmental message. Instead of the usual gloom and doom, these students want to offer a compelling vision for America based on long-held values and convictions. At each stop, the students explain to people that they are taking action against global warming not just because of some scientific statistics, but because of moral and spiritual reasons: they are acting with their hearts as well as their heads. "After seeing the loss of biodiversity in Florida as a child," says Sarah Trapido, a student on the bus, "I wanted to dedicate my life to doing whatever I can to save what is left." For Sarah, stopping global warming means a chance to save the Florida coast. "I'm trying to be the best steward of the earth that I can be," says Middlebury College Religion major Will Bates, who spent last spring organizing Road to Detroit.

+ Read the full article



Crunch time for CAFTA

The trade pact that would spell misery for thousands of Central American farmers is likely to come to a House vote next week, after a close but unsurprising approval last week in the traditionally pro-trade-deal Senate.

+ Read Guatemalan Bishop Monsignor Alvaro Ramazzini's denunciation of how CAFTA would cut off access to life-saving generic medicines in desperately poor countries.

+ Read economist Mark Weisbrot on why "free trade" is a misnomer.

Although the agreement is unpopular in the House, the Bush administration is putting on a full-court press of political pressure and lavish promises of pork.

+ Take action now to remind your elected officials that you want them to say no to CAFTA!


Go With Peace
by Kelly Guinan

An extraordinary new peace education book, this text takes the abstract concept of peacemaking and teaches with hands-on, concrete lessons. Engaging, enlightening, challenging, and fun! Perfect for schools, homes, community centers, places of worship, camps, shelters - anywhere children and their families can be found.

Wholistic in nature, teaching peacemaking builds skills in four focal areas: Peace for Me, Peace for Us, Peace for Everyone, and Peace for the Planet. Proceeds support a peace education, nonprofit organization.


One Catholic voice on death penalty takes on another
from Catholic News Service

For years, the two most prominent voices among U.S. Catholics on the subject of the death penalty have been those of a nun who is a former schoolteacher and a Georgetown- and Harvard-educated Supreme Court justice. Sister Helen Prejean, author of two books that draw on her experiences as a spiritual adviser to men on death row, and Justice Antonin Scalia, the fourth most senior member of the Supreme Court, have come to represent the extremes of Catholic thought about capital punishment.

+ Read the full article


Sisters Online is a collaborative ministry of women religious committed to global kinship, a Web site focusing on spirituality and justice, seeking to be voices for right relationships, and agents of economic/social change. Visit us at:

Religious Left Gear. Visit us at to get bumper stickers, t-shirts, mugs, etc. This week's featured sticker: When Jesus said "Love your Enemies" I don't think he meant for us to kill them.

Engage your congregation in the pursuit of social, political and economic justice, along with community faith-building, through congregation-based organizing. Christians Supporting Community Organizing.


Readers write

The Rev. Elaine McCoy, Ph.D., writes from Cleveland, Ohio:

David Batstone's concise and accurate description of the "ungirding" of the freedom of religious expression versus the constitutional protection of religious pluralism is a welcome addition to the increasingly muddled media commentary on religion and politics ["The Supreme Court got it right on religion," SojoMail 6/29/2205]. While a case-by-case approach to large social issues frustrates political observers, we people of faith benefit by maintaing a respect for the context within which moral judgement is made. Let's make sure that progerssive Christians avoid the trap of too-little expectation of the conservative U.S. Supreme Court and keep our eyes open as to what the real effect of developing constitutional doctrine is.


Rev. Dorothy Slater writes from Falls Village, Connecticut:

Unfortunately, David Batstone's comment: "get over it, secularists, G....has never been a taboo subject" is exactly the sort of snide remark that makes this minister NOT want to share my faith in public. I have never understood exactly what is to be gained by having the Ten Commandments posted in a public space. If I thought for one minute that seeing them would help people obey them, I would not object. But the people who shout the loudest for their inclusion in public spaces are the same ones who do the least honor to God. There is something about praying in a closet that is good - even Jesus thought so.


Joe V. Peterson, writes from Tacoma, Washington:

Yes, the court did get it right. Intent is everything in law. The ruling is a fair one. But the ruling will no doubt create more controversy. However, it's unlikely very many of those concerned conservatives (or even many other Christians) could tell you what the Ten Commandments are (quote them) or tell you where they are found in the Bible! Though people make it a Christian issue, fewer yet could probably recite the "commandments" of Jesus Christ - the Beatitudes - and rarely does anyone suggest they be displayed in public places, even though they might claim this nation is Christian. And it's unlikely many Christians can tell you what Jesus had to say about the Laws of Moses (Ten Commandments plus many more) or tell you what the purpose of the Ten Commandments is according to the New Testament writers.


William J. FitzPatrick writes from Blacksburg, Virginia:

David Batstone correctly notes that "separation of church and state" does not entail that "people of faith should keep their religious sentiments hidden away in the privacy of a closet in their home." But he incorrectly attributes to "secularists" the view that it does. Secularists do not claim that people should keep their faith closeted, or that theology is a "taboo subject" in society. The secularist claim is not that individuals should refrain from publicly displaying their faith, but rather that the government should refrain from actions that amount to support of one or another religious faith, either against other faiths or against agnosticism. The Supreme Court got the Texas case wrong not because there's anything wrong with individuals being open about their personal faiths, but because having the Ten Commandments displayed on the Capitol grounds - particularly to the exclusion of the doctrines of other faiths - strongly suggests that "this state endorses the divine code of the 'Judeo-Christian' God," as Stevens put it in his dissent. There is a serious principle at work here, and it is not helpful to (mis)use a term like "secularists" as a way of writing off people who are concerned with that principle (just as so many today do with the term "liberals").


Nancy Novak writes from Fort Worth, Texas:

A big thank you to Sojourners for continuing to support Mr. Glen Stassen's positions on abortion and the economic/political policies of this country ["The pro-life movement and economic justice," SojoMail 6/29/2005]. His point regarding whether so-called pro-life advocates care about reducing abortions or whether their aim is to solidify their power is well taken.

I have found that to be the case with abortion opponents who are also Republicans. Rarely do they focus on the underlying causes of abortion, and what to do about it. The Stassen and Guttmacher analyses clearly show a trend reversal, however big or small it might be. Our economy clearly shows a trend reversal from the 1990s. I agree with Stassen that economics play a key role in many domestic issues, such as abortion, marriage, and violence. I live in a "red" state, and see it everyday.


Richard Simpson writes from Plymouth, England:

I read with interest some letters in the last SojoMail regarding American troops withdrawing from Iraq. I was also aware that this week President Bush has declared that the troops will not be returning until the fight against the terrorists and insurgents is complete (whenever that may be!). I agree with the people who say troops cannot leave Iraq until the Iraqi Government has the quality and quantity of its own security forces to deal with the problems inside Iraq. However I believe it would be better if these were not American or British troops but a coalition of troops under the command of the United Nations (and it would probably be best if this included some troops from Arab nations). That way the American and British could not be seen as 'the enemy' and much of the raison d'etre of the insurgents would be gone (as many of them are simply anti-Western). It would also take away the suspicion (prevalent in many parts of the world) that America is trying to make economic capital out of being in Iraq, much as a colonial power of old would have done (and a Brit knows only too well about all that, with our own imperial past!)


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views that do not necessarily represent those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice heard? Include your name, hometown, and state/province/country in a concise e-mail to: We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.


by Charles Dickinson

If Christianity - without losing its soul - is yet to avoid losing touch with the world, it must constantly update itself by dialogue with all the intellectual currents of today. To this end, the author proposes a necessary two-way dialectic between theology and the world, an ongoing dialectic ultimately essential to both church and world. $25 hardcover. To order call (313) 624-9784. Dove Booksellers, 13904 Michigan Avenue, Dearborn, Michigan, 48126.

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